Ending the stigma around anxiety: Mental Health Awareness Week 2014

man crying

by Steven McGinty

Today marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness week. The campaign started in 2000 with the aim of raising the awareness of a specific mental health issue. Previous issues have included alcohol, stigma and exercise and this year’s focus is the impact of anxiety. To highlight this event, the Knowledge Exchange has summarised some of the most recent literature on anxiety and mental health more generally.

According to data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, 25% of people suffer from mental health problems each year.  Out of those people, 4.7 out of 100 will struggle specifically with Anxiety. Research has shown that those who suffer from poor mental health are 50% more likely to die than other people of the same age.  When an individual has a physical condition, those with anxiety or depression are likely to need 50% more treatment than those with just the physical condition. There is also a 15-20 years difference in life expectancy for Individuals admitted to hospital with a mental illness.

Organisations also face the challenges of mental health.  Amy Iverson, a UK Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist, highlights that 40% of lost work days through ill health are attributable to mental health . In financial terms, this is said to cost the EU between 3% and 4% in GDP each year. In the UK alone it is expected that seven million workers will struggle with their mental health by 2030.

Financial distress has recently been reported as a major cause of poor mental health and wellbeing. The ‘GoWell’ report looks at the relationship between financial problems and mental health. It makes it clear that those struggling to pay household bills are more likely to suffer problems of long term stress and anxiety. On a similar theme, the ‘Worried Sick’ report provides cases studies of people’s experiences with poverty and mental health. It suggests that recent changes to welfare and the introduction of Universal Credit have led to higher levels of stress and anxiety. In particular, the fear of the move to digital applications has led to considerable anxiety for the low skilled.

So what can be done to support those with mental illness? One of the most important ways is to end the stigma in society. Human Resources departments have a legal obligation to address any issues of discrimination in the workplace. However, it is important that workplace cultures change. It is only when this happens that people will feel able to discuss their difficulties and seek help. Additionally, mental health providers should recognise the role of welfare advice.  Welfare advice should be embedded at the earliest possible stage, in order to support the recovery process.

Mental Health Awareness Week is an opportunity to put mental health issues in the public domain and to demonstrate the large numbers of people who struggle with mental illness on a daily basis.

This post has covered just a small sample of the issues involved in the mental health debate. The Information Service provides many more resources to explore the topic further. The research noted will support those working on a policy level, as well as those practically engaged with service users.

Articles referred to in this blog (please note you must be a member to access articles)

  • Mental Health Foundation: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/mentalhealthawarenessweek/
  • Shedding light on a hidden issue (employee mental health), IN HR Magazine, Feb 2014, pp34-37
  • Mental illness and unhappiness (Centre for Economic Performance discussion paper no 1239)
  • Health and Social Care Information Centre: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/pubs/psychiatricmorbidity07
  • Financial stress and mental wellbeing in an age of austerity: evidence from the GoWell surveys 2006-2011
  • Worried sick: experiences of poverty and mental health across Scotland
  • Welfare advice for people who use mental health services: developing the business case

One thought on “Ending the stigma around anxiety: Mental Health Awareness Week 2014

  1. Pingback: Beating the back to work blues | The Knowledge Exchange Blog

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