suffering from a mental health illness? it's ok, you're not alone.

27/01/2019

No one likes being sick. Cash in the Attic, aches and pains and endless doses of medication is enough to make anyone force themselves into work. But perhaps that combination - reality daytime TV, illness and Lemsip - is making workers think twice before reporting in ill.

Figures released earlier this month showed the average worker took almost four-and-a-half days off ill last year, which equates to an estimated 137m working days across the entire workforce. That might seem a lot but compared to 1993, when these statistics started being recorded, the average worker had 7.2 days off a year through illness.

Most sick days lost to minor illnesses.

Most workers (33%) were struck down by minor illnesses like a cold while almost a fifth (18%) blamed musculoskeletal problems including back pain, neck and upper limb problems. After ‘other’ conditions, mental health issues including stress, depression, anxiety were the next most common reason for sickness absence, resulting in 15.8m days lost (11.5%).

When it comes to the mental health in construction, figures vary on the number of workers suffering symptoms. The best estimate is that 350,000 employees are currently battling mental illness while a report 10 years ago by the CIOD found almost 70% of workers had suffered from stress, anxiety or depression as a direct result of working in the industry. That figure is likely to have risen.

Being mentally unwell is not weak.

Mental illness is often an invisible one and one that men in particular don’t feel comfortable talking about. Here I want to be clear: admitting you might be suffering from mental illness is not a sign of weakness. My colleague Paul Pickering, head of Randstad Health, Safety and Environmental, wrote this month that talking about your mental health should be the first thing you do to confront it. A trusted colleague or organisations like the Lighthouse Club or Mates in Mind are often the best people to go to for support.

You're not alone.

We need to change attitudes towards mental health and treat it like one of the injuries topping the ONS’ table.  And to those who may be suffering, never forget the support is there and you are not alone.