The UK: building a case
Mental health is still a stigma at the workplace, a stigma that certainly needs to be removed. . . In the UK for example, mental health problems in the workplace cost the economy approximately £94 billion annually and 91 million workdays are lost in the UK each year due to mental illness.
A recent survey in this country found that 57% of UK employees have experience mental health issues; less than half feel confident to talk about it. Researchers in this country have also found that the time spent working is on average the least happy of a workers’ life. Endemic stress in knowledge-based industries accounts for a large portion of workplace absence and represents a huge loss of national productivity.
This national picture of unease around mental health at work has made this country to trigger and implement initiatives at the government level with strong involvement of the business sector from which we can learn from.
- In 2008 the UK Government Office for Science published the Foresight Report ‘Mental Capital and Wellbeing’ as one of the initial actions, which aimed to bring awareness that in order to prosper and thrive as a society in an increasingly interconnected and competitive world, mental capital and mental wellbeing is vital. Publications like this are increasingly helping leaders to see that the cognitive and emotional resources of their colleagues determine the health, resilience and future performance of their business and institutions.
- One year later the City Mental Health Alliance was founded by City businesses, with close support by two leading UK mental health organizations, Mental Health First Aid England and Mind. Championed by senior business leaders, the Alliance is business-led and works to create a culture of good mental health for City workers.
- In 2009 the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Wellbeing Economics was formed. It seeks to highlight how wellbeing serves as a valuable and pragmatic framing for making policy decisions and for setting a vision for the UK. The group emphasizes the importance of mental health both to human wellbeing and the prosperity of the country, and it has prompted the government’s initiative to set up the What Works Centre for Wellbeing (established in 2015), that networks with diverse actors, including businesses to improve wellbeing in general.
- In 2014 the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) was set up, on the basis that mindfulness training is an important innovation in mental health. In 2015, the group published “Mindful Nation UK”, the report was the culmination of over a year of research concluding how mindfulness could be one of the most promising prevention strategies for mental health interventions. And in 2016, the group published “Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace” to provide research evidence of the benefits of mindfulness practice in the business sector, the report was championed by companies including BT, EY, GE, GSK, HSBC and Jaguar Land Rover.
We can see from these examples that it may seem that breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health can foster a culture of openness and can support human flourishing and thereby the prosperity of a country as a whole.