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‘Embarrassment’ stops people raising stress at work with their boss, MP warns

Waveney MP Peter Aldous says that workplaces need to consider the impact of mental health more. Picture: Time to change/Newscast Online

Waveney MP Peter Aldous says that workplaces need to consider the impact of mental health more. Picture: Time to change/Newscast Online

Time to change/Newscast Online

Workers struggling with stress and mental ill health are often too embarrassed to raise it with their boss for fear their may be mocked, an MP has warned.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous.
 Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYWaveney MP Peter Aldous. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Waveney MP Peter Aldous made the warning during a parliamentary speech on the need to embed a greater culture of mental health support in workplaces.

The Conservative chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on first aid and said during the speech in the House of Commons: “For many, first aid in the workplace has too often in the past been a green box that is kept in the corner and which, if we are lucky, is opened very occasionally when someone cuts a finger or scalds themselves when making a cup of tea.

“However, it is much more than that.

“Not only can there be more serious physical illnesses to which we have to attend, such as a broken limb or a heart attack, but there are mental health challenges of which we need to be increasingly aware.

“Very often, workplaces are highly stressful settings, which can accentuate mental health challenges.

“It is important that we put in place measures to reduce stress, to help pick up those first signs of mental illness and to ensure that people needing treatment and support receive it as quickly as possible.”

He pointed to research from St John Ambulance which found two-thirds of people would feel uncomfortable asking for a mental health sick day, giving responses such as that they feel their employer has “archaic” attitudes or that their boss would mock them.

Mr Aldous, who has been Waveney MP since 2010, said many people “do not feel able to tell their employer when they are feeling anxious or depressed at work, with most citing ‘embarrassment’ as the main barrier”.

He added: “There is overwhelming evidence of the need to embed a culture of mental health aid and support in the workplace.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who also spoke in the debate, said: “It is often not recognised by those who do not experience it just how painful and disabling mental ill health can be.

“Alongside that, however, there is a significant cost to employers—not just private sector employers, but the public sector, charities and so forth.

“This is not just about time off work, because many people end up falling out of work and on to benefits, and others turn up to work but under-perform—the concept of presenteeism—because they are not feeling on top of their game, or because they are obsessed by anxieties or concerns that prevent them from performing their work responsibilities effectively.

“Addressing mental ill health is a win-win-win for everybody, because this issue affects not just individuals, but employers and even the government, who gain as a result of us taking it more seriously.”

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