Tomorrow’s workforce scared to admit mental health issues to protect their careers

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Debut, the UK’s leading student and graduate careers app, has today released figures revealing that 70 percent of UK graduates would avoid informing prospective or new employers about their mental health issues to avoid any negative impact on their career progression and position.

Given that one in four people in the UK workforce will experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem during their working life, the fact nine out of ten respondents (88%) said they believed there is still a negative stigma attached to admitting to suffering from a mental health issue is of serious concern.

Mental health: Moving from education into employment

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Early in 2018 Professor Steve West, the Universities UK wellbeing lead, suggested prospective university students should “indicate they need […] support” on their university application. Such a move would allow universities to put the right level of support required for each cohort of new students in place, he claimed.

From this a number of universities have sought to improve their mental health provisions, however 65 percent of the respondents still believe their university did not do enough to support students with mental health issues – of which four in every ten graduates suffer (41%).

Whilst there is clearly still work to be done to ensure students are receiving adequate support at university, there is even more to be done to ensure graduates are equally supported when making the transition into the workplace. Whilst some students may be happy to divulge their mental health history at university level, there are clearly still barriers to overcome at a professional level.

Employer support for struggling employees

Of the 70 percent who said they would avoid telling an employer about their mental health issues, 83 percent said they would be more inclined to seek mental health support if their employer offered an ‘off the record’ – or fully anonymous – service or services that would be kept separate from their employment record. However, nearly 7 in 10 (67%) graduates said their company does not offer ‘off the record’ support to employees.

When asked what form of ‘off the record’ support they would prefer to use, respondents said:

  • Face-to-face meeting (61%)
  • WhatsApp, or other instant online chat (19%)
  • Email (10%)
  • Via video call (7%)
  • SMS / text-messaging (3%)

According to the study employers are failing graduate employees. Only 15 percent of graduates described the employee welfare provided by their employer as ‘good’, with only half saying it was ‘adequate’ (51%) and 34 percent labelling it as ‘poor’.

These statistics show that graduates don’t feel their workplaces are properly equipped to support workers with mental health issues. Whilst mental health concerns are being discussed more openly in wider society, it seems there is still work to be done in regards to the stigma associated with admitting to suffering from mental health issues and support offered to those transitioning from university to work.

In an age when employers are increasing their demands for better-prepared graduates who can settle into any industry using cross-sector skills, it’s vital for employers to prioritise the welfare of their employees and new recruits. This study of 1,000 graduates currently in full-time employment highlights the stigma employees struggling with their mental health face.

Charlie Taylor, Founder and CEO of Debut comments, on the findings and issues faced by graduates entering employment:

“Supporting new graduates as they transition from university to work should be a major consideration of progressive employers. If graduate recruitment specialists want to attract – and more importantly keep – the best talent as they emerge from education, they need to know what issues students and graduates are facing, and how best to support them.

“Graduate programmes can be fiercely competitive, which can exacerbate mental health issues; employers need to take note of the information revealed by our latest survey and ensure they are providing anonymous, ‘off the record’ support for this future workforce.”

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