Belfast Telegraph

Mental health issues prevalent among Belfast workers: report

Plan: Dr Michael McBride
Plan: Dr Michael McBride
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Eight in 10 Belfast workers have felt mentally unwell as a direct result of their job, a new study has found.

In total, over two thirds (69%) of Belfast workers have had a mental health issue that impacted their ability to perform at work, according to the research.

When asked what factors impacted their mental health, nearly half (48%) put it down to heavy workload, 45% blamed a negative working atmosphere, and 35% attributed it to poor management.

Of those who have had a mental health issue in the workplace, three quarters (75%) said they didn't feel supported by their senior team or boss, and 72% believed that if they told their boss they were struggling with a mental health issue, it would have a negative impact on their job.

The nationwide study, conducted by TalkOut - an organisation created to remove the stigma surrounding mental health within the workplace - found that when workers do open up about their mental health problems, the consequences can sometimes be dire.

The results, published today on World Mental Health Day, also show that 21% of those who opened up said they felt persecuted, 13% felt sidelined and 13% said it caused arguments with colleagues. It's perhaps no surprise then that two thirds (66%) of Belfast workers have pretended to have had a physical ailment to take sick leave, when in reality they were struggling mentally.

When asked why they did this, 44% said they were worried about how it would reflect on them within the organisation, 35% said they knew their boss wouldn't be supportive, and just over a quarter (26%) felt ashamed.

Shockingly, over half (57%) of Belfast workers said they had witnessed a colleague, who suffered with mental health issues, being demoted or pushed out of their job.

And an overwhelming 97% of respondents believe management should be trained in dealing with mental health issues.

Jill Mead, co-founder and managing director of TalkOut, said the findings are concerning as they "clearly demonstrate that not enough is being done to reduce the long-standing stigma and discrimination around mental health within the workplace".

She added: "If we're going to make any progress, mental health needs to stop being seen as a taboo, particularly in professional environments, and there needs to be an understanding and acknowledgement that people with mental health conditions can often thrive at work with the right support."

Meanwhile, the world's leading advocate for the right to health, UN Special Rapporteur, Dainius Puras, will today deliver a keynote address at a Mental Health Congress in Belfast.

The all-day event, at the Spectrum Centre on the Shankill Road, will bring together people directly impacted by mental health and suicide as well as community workers to discuss the crisis in suicide and mental health in Northern Ireland.

The theme of World Mental Health Day this year is suicide prevention. Last month, Northern Ireland's chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride unveiled a plan to cut Northern Ireland's suicide rate by 10% in the next five years.

The commitment was contained in the long-awaited Protect Life 2 suicide prevention strategy published by the Department of Health.

Northern Ireland has the highest suicide rate in the UK, with five people dying each week.

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