By Claire West
More than 90 percent of people believe that admitting to a mental health condition could damage their career prospects according to a recent poll.
The result is that most give a different reason to their employer, if they need time off from work.
Against this backdrop, and ahead of National Depression Awareness Week, KPMG's Nick Baber, a director in KPMG's Financial Services Consulting team who has suffered from depression, argues that creating a culture of openness, early intervention and support in the workplace is critical if UK plc is to remove the stigma attached to depression and mental illness.
He says: “People often present a different persona in their personal and professional lives, fearing rejection by their peers if they fail to project a certain image. The stark reality is that so much energy is spent by individuals pretending to be something they are not, that mental and physical health, performance and productivity suffer as a result. It would be far better if employees were comfortable enough in their working environment to be themselves, but this will only happen if senior business leaders with experience of mental health problems tell their own stories and implement performance indicators which measure and report on progress in the workplace.
“The taboo associated with openly discussing depression will also be easier to remove if organisations commit to providing mental health training for anyone with line management responsibilities. After all, knowing how to support a colleague is critical first step in helping them deal with their situation at work. With reports suggesting that mental health problems cost the UK economy £26 billion per year this is no longer an issue British business can ignore. Doing so will prove too costly - both for organisations and the mental well-being of their staff.”
As a founding member of the City Mental Health Alliance, KPMG is committed to managing and supporting employees' mental health. In addition to the well-being programme, which includes regular health assessments, a pro-active doctor-led occupational health service and rehabilitation service to support people when they are unwell, the firm offers a market leading mental health benefit within its private medical insurance scheme. KPMG is also exploring ways to develop its existing offering to staff and is currently considering ways to roll out a mental health awareness programme to help performance managers support their staff.
Stephen Frost, UK Head of Diversity & Inclusion at KPMG, adds: “Being comfortable in your own skin is a key ingredient for career success and employees need to know that they will not face career road blocks if they 'come out' and admit to having mental health problems. Organisations want to attract and retain the best people — and the only way to do that is to be inclusive. What matters most are the skills an individual brings to the table, but it is the employer's duty to provide them with the support to keep them there.”