Eight million ‘suffer in silence’

One in four people have taken time off work for stress and blamed it on a physical illness – that suggests about eight million employees in the UK alone are suffering in silence.

According to research from Aviva, released to coincide with National Stress Awareness Day, a third of people (33%) have taken a day off work with stress at some stage in their career.

Men are more likely to suffer with 53% taking time off for stress compared to 34% of women.

The research also found that 31% of respondents took one or two days off for stress in the past year, although six per cent said they’d taken 11 days or more.

The research provided more positive evidence that the stigma around stress and other mental health problems in the workplace is being reduced. A third of people (33%) said they would now feel more comfortable talking about it than they would have done five years ago, compared to just 12% who said they would feel less comfortable.

Steve Bridger, managing director of group protection at Aviva, said, ‘In 2016 people should not feel that they have to hide their stress away and suffer in silence. Feeling that you can’t be open about a problem is likely to make it worse, not better. People don’t raise an eyebrow if a colleague is off work with flu, but anything to do with mental health still appears to be taboo.

‘The most recent government figures say that 15 million working days a year are being lost because of stress and mental illness so this is clearly something employers need to focus on.

‘It’s really encouraging to see that some people are feeling more comfortable and confident about being open on mental health in the workplace. That trend needs to continue. This can be helped by creating a culture within an organisation which is open and supportive. Line manager training programmes can help identify people who may be suffering with a problem while access to external support such as an Employee Assistance Programme can offer fast and direct support when it’s needed.

‘Mental wellbeing is a dynamic spectrum that applies to all of us, rather than just a few people some of the time. We all experience stress to varying degrees at some point in our lives so it is something we can all relate to. I hope events such as National Stress Awareness Day can encourage more of us to talk about mental health issues instead of keeping it a secret.’