Mental health: a quarter of UK workers may be facing a breakdown

Supportive therapist comforting a young worker. Photo: Getty

Many UK workers’ may be close to breaking point, as they are forced to make up physical illnesses for fear of talking about their mental health at work.

A survey of 2,000 workers, by specialist stress-at-work lawyers from Slater and Gordon, found workers are taking about four “mental health days” a year. But they’re lying about it to their boss for fear of being judged, demoted or sacked.

What’s more, in the last five years, a quarter of Brits have left at least one job due to pressure and the negative impact it was having on their mental health.

READ MORE: Is working from home impacting your mental health?

Meanwhile, one in six are still in a role causing them burnout, stress and anxiety.

Over half of employees who took mental health days faked a physical illness to explain their absence, despite stress from work souring relationships and sleep patterns for many.

A mental health day is a sick day taken to look after psychological wellbeing. This could include seeing a counsellor, or taking time to reduce stress and anxiety before it becomes overwhelming.

READ MORE: Why we need to take mental health days sometimes

Peter Lyons, employment liability lawyer, at Slater and Gordon said: “We speak to a lot of people who are feeling so stressed and anxious with work they are forced into taking mental health days.

“Many isolate themselves, trying to work harder, which causes their personal lives to suffer and mental health to deteriorate further. The biggest thing we would say is don’t fight stress alone at work.

“Keep detailed notes of what is causing stress and anxiety, then speak to a trusted colleague or manager to create a plan to tackle the issues. Union representatives or legal advisers specialising in this area can also provide guidance.”

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The research shows a significant imbalance in the way mental health is treated compared with physical health.

Shockingly, 14% of those who are honest with their boss are told to “man up”, while 13% are fired, forced to leave or demoted from their roles.

Many recognised their mental health wasn’t as good as it should be, nor was their workplace’s attitude towards it, with 65% calling for more support to be provided.

Poor mental health formed at work was following people home with two in five admitting stress from their jobs has a negative impact on their mental health.

READ MORE: Six in 10 men want to quit their jobs because of poor mental health

Over a third (37%) struggle to switch off at night or over the weekend, and three in five even suffer from “Sunday dread” – a feeling of anxiety that peaks on Sunday afternoons.

The most common contributors to this are pressure from above (53%) and unrealistic deadlines (42%).

The average person also spent an additional 27 unpaid minutes each day working, adding up to two and a half extra weeks of work a year.

READ MORE: Five things employers can do to protect staff mental health

The combination of these factors led to two in five arguing with their partners and missing personal events, and a third arguing with family members.