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Supporting your employees through low mental health

Stressed young male employee on the phone

UK employees take more than 23 million sick days a year due to work-related stress, burnout and general poor mental health, according to new research from AXA UK and Centre for Business and Economic Research (Cebr).

The AXA Mind Health Study found that more than a fifth (21%) of UK adults are in emotional distress, defined by the study as 'struggling', and a further quarter (26%) have an absence of positive wellbeing, defined in the study as 'languishing'. This means almost half of the UK are currently not in a positive state of mental wellbeing and at risk of burning out, which is having a significant impact on the economy and businesses across the UK.

There were some positive findings, with a decline in the stigma associated with having a mental health condition and more people 'flourishing' and enjoying very good mind health (23%) compared to last year (18%).

However, almost one in two people (46%) admitted that they feel overwhelmed and uncertain about the future.

"There are positive signs and it's good to see the stigma associated with having a mental health condition continuing to decline, but it's clear that more needs to be done to support people at work and in their everyday life," said Claudio Gienal, chief executive of AXA UK and Ireland.

Support via EAPs

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are one way that many employers support their staff, by providing counselling, practical advice and referral services to help people deal with personal and work-related issues.

EAP services are now available to 24.45 million employees working in more than 105,000 organisations across the UK -- 75% of the entire workforce -- and people are increasingly turning to their workplace EAP over NHS services.

An estimated 640,250 employees contacted their EAP in the period between January 2022 and January 2023 -- of which 434,250 (68%) were offered counselling as a result of concerns over their mental health, according to a recent report from the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA UK). To help people deal with the issues troubling them, EAPs delivered more than 1.375 million counselling sessions over the course of the year.

Some people reaching out to EAP services for mental health support are at crisis point. On average, 1.7% of counselling cases are classed as 'red flag' (involving an immediate and serious risk of suicide). This translates to more than 10,000 lives at serious risk from suicide each year -- and highlights just how crucial this help can be.

'Hugely valuable resource'

"EAPs are now a hugely valuable resource to employers and employees," said project lead and former EAPA UK chair, Eugene Farrell. "Anecdotally, EAP providers know that GPs are increasingly encouraging patients with mental health concerns to contact their EAP if they have one. As the report data shows, this also means EAPs are being treated as a frontline emergency service and involved with complex, long-term cases of mental illness."

"Given the limitations to NHS resources and both the scale and complexity of dealing with people's mental wellbeing, more thought and discussion is needed around the place of EAPs -- including how else they can help," added Sir Cary Cooper, 50th Anniversary Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the University of Manchester. "Maybe there's a need for extensions to EAP services, to ensure there's provision for longer-term counselling programmes through to recovery."

Posted by Fidelius on May 9th 2023

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