Labour Research May 2002

Features: Equality

Workers reluctant to reveal mental health problems

Only a third of people who have experienced mental health problems feel secure about revealing this on job application forms, according to a recent report by the Mental Health Foundation charity (MHF).

However, the MHF also finds that many of those who have succeeded in getting a job are "pleasantly surprised" by the support and attitudes of employers and colleagues when they do "come out" about their mental health problem.

The report, Out at work is based on a survey of over 400 people with experience of mental health problems and their relationship to work. It found that 90% of those currently working had told someone at work about their experience of mental health problems, and generally felt supported and accepted.

MHF chief executive Ruth Lesirge said: "The results clearly show that things are starting to change for the better." But she added that: "It is still only a minority of people with mental health problems who are in employment. This is despite evidence from our research that people with mental health problems make a considerable contribution in terms of voluntary or unpaid work."

The report also reveals a picture of pressures at work causing or intensifying mental health problems. Nearly two in three felt that unrealistic workloads, too high expectations and long hours were major contributors to their mental health problems.