Data published this week from the Office for National Statistic’s (ONS’s) Labour Force Survey has found that that 17.5 million working days were lost last year due to mental health-related sickness absence.  

In 2018/19, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 54% of all working days lost due to ill health. 

Commenting on the data, Simon Blake, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, said:

“Research consistently shows that only a minority of people disclose mental illness as a reason for sickness absence.  

“This tells us that the ONS’s Labour Force Survey is likely capturing the tip of an iceberg. And this is why going above and beyond to act on workplace mental health and wellbeing is so important.” 

The news comes as a survey by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) which suggests that, whilst a majority of managers are managing staff with mental health issues, only half have received any relevant training.  

Research taking in the views of 940 managers across the UK found that managers are supporting staff with a wide range of mental health issues. This includes more common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and stress - as well as less common issues such as eating disorders, bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Line managers play a pivotal role in supporting employee health and wellbeing and should be a key source of support for those suffering with mental health problems at work. However, CMI’s survey found that around half of all managers (49%) had never received any training on managing mental health in the workplace. 

The lack of training was most apparent with older, senior managers. 51% of senior managers had never received training on managing mental health in the workplace, compared to 44% of junior managers. And 52% of older managers (over 50) had never received training, compared to 42% of younger managers (18-29). 

CMI CEO, Ann Francke, said:

“Line managers play a critical role in supporting employees’ mental health and wellbeing; they may be the first port of call for someone who is struggling, or they may be best placed to notice when a colleague’s demeanour changes. But they need to be equipped and empowered to do so.   

“CMI research has shown that in too many cases managers are not receiving the training they need to be effective in supporting their teams. I call on all managers to consider how they can best show that they are available to talk to any members of staff who may need it”. 

Commenting further, Simon Blake said:

“As the CMI’s survey data highlights, giving managers the tools to support themselves and their teams is crucial.  

“From our work with over 20,000 employers, we have seen the difference that evidence-based mental health training makes – empowering people to talk openly about mental health and seek help when needed."