Workplace stress should be health and safety issue

Stress

Mental health needs societal change to address root causes says report 

14th May 2018 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Workplace stress should be treated as seriously as physical health and safety risks by employers, a charity has said.

A report by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), launched to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, calls for new rules in the way mental health is treated.

A third of people in Britain have experienced suicidal feelings, according to the report - one of the largest ever on the nation’s mental health.

More than 4,600 UK adults took part in the survey, three out of four of whom said they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope in the past year because of stress.

To address the growing problem, MHF is calling on the government to introduce new standards for employers and to consider psychological hazards in workplace safety assessments.

“There are very few workplaces left in the UK in which employees working with hazardous chemicals would not be provided with protective equipment, and failures resulting in injury or even death prosecuted,” the report says.

“We do not currently adopt the same attitudes and behaviours towards psychological hazards.”

Stress and mental health is the fourth-most common reason for workplace absence.

Hazards are triggers which overwhelm coping mechanisms which include taking breaks or leaving on time and breaches should be enforced, MHF says.

It also calls for a minimum of two mental health days” for nurses, teachers, police officers and other public sector staff working twice as hard in the face of budget cuts and staff shortages.

Introducing and incentivising the use of mental health days could help to prevent stress escalating and turning into longer-term sickness absence, by encouraging self-care,” the report says.

Lee Knifton, head of Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: "Very large numbers of adults in Scotland are experiencing high levels of stress and it is damaging our health.

"Stress is one of the great public health challenges of our time, but it still isn't being taken as seriously as physical health concerns.

"It is a significant factor in mental health problems including anxiety and depression.”