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Poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year

Jill Whittaker, Managing Director of HIT Training
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A lot about the last year has been unpredictable, but if you had told me back then that one of our biggest selling short courses would soon be First Aid for Mental Health I’d have assumed that you were talking about demand in the care and healthcare industries. I’d have been very wrong.

Research from the ONS in June 2020 found that almost one in five adults (19.2%) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; this had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 (9.7%) before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020).

Further, they found that one in eight adults (12.9%) developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms during the pandemic, while a further 6.2% of the population continued to experience this level of depressive symptoms; around 1 in 25 adults (3.5%) saw an improvement over this period.

Feeling stressed or anxious was the most common way adults experiencing some form of depression felt their well-being was being affected, with 84.9% stating this. And these statistics were from June 2020, when we had only had one lockdown.

A report from Deloitte, “Mental health and employers: the case for refreshing investment” published in January 2020 stated that, on average, for every £1 spent on supporting their people’s mental health, employers get £5 back on their investment in reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover. Further, poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year. This is a rise of 16% since 2016 – an extra £6 billion a year. Young people are the most vulnerable demographic in the workplace.

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The report found that employers lose the equivalent of 8.3% of the salaries of those aged 18-29 as a result of poor mental health – the highest of any employee age group. Young people are also less likely to disclose mental health problems to employers and more likely to use their holiday instead of taking days off work. All the more reason for employers to develop an open and accepting environment for their workers.

Instead of sweeping these statistics under the carpet, employers large and small are investing in first aid for mental health training for their staff: they are recognising that an open conversation, recognition of mental health problems on equal footing to physical health issues, and improved understanding are not only good for their staff but also good for their businesses.

Amongst the organisations who have sent staff on out first aid for mental health courses are: bars and restaurants; adult, child and health care settings; financial consultants; design companies; IT businesses and training providers.

It’s an ill wind that blows no-one any good, and whilst none of us would wish mental illness on anyone, if the pandemic has opened up businesses to the realities of the need to support staff better, then some good has come from it.

Jill Whittaker, Managing Director of HIT Training

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