Younger Britons Are Most Concerned About the Impact of Mental Health Stigma on Career Options

Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index™ shows that Britons’ optimism continues to decline amidst new challenges brought on by the pandemic

Morneau Shepell, a leading provider of total wellbeing, mental health and digital mental health services, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a negative mental health score among Britons for the eleventh consecutive month. The Mental Health Index™ score for February is -13.8, indicating a continued decline in mental health compared to the pre-2020 benchmark.

The February score is slightly lower than January (-13.3) and the same as its lowest point, reported at inception of the Index in April 2020. In February, the lowest Mental Health Index™ sub-score was optimism (-18.1), which has continued to decline since January (-17.1) and December (-17.3). This demonstrates that reports of multiple highly contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus, restrictions across the country and the threat of a third wave continue to negatively impact Britons’ mental health.

“Britons’ optimism and confidence about the future is decreasing at a concerning rate, in turn impacting overall wellbeing and doing harm to the resiliency that has historically characterised this nation,” said Philip Mullen, managing director, U.K. and Europe. “Britons are suffering, and we’ve reached a critical point in the pandemic where individuals with no previous mental health concerns are also now at risk. It is especially imperative that employers offer a helping hand to support their employees and show that support is available to help them navigate through these difficult times. Having an open dialogue is no longer enough. Action is required to successfully address the evolving challenges brought on by the pandemic.”

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Britons concerned that revealing mental health issues will impact workplace and personal relationships

Mental health continues to be a taboo subject for many Britons, despite increased efforts to reduce the associated stigma. The research found that 48 per cent of Britons believe that their career options would be limited if their employer was aware that they had a mental health issue. Within this group, more than half of managers (54 per cent) believe their career would be impacted if their employer knew of a mental health issue, compared to 42 per cent of non-managers. Mental health also continues to be an uncomfortable topic for many people to broach with friends, with 38 per cent of respondents indicating that they believe they would be treated differently if their friends learned they had a mental health issue.

When broken out by age, young Britons reported being more concerned about limited career options after revealing they are struggling with a mental health issue than older demographics (54 per cent of respondents aged 20 to 29, improving with age to 40 per cent among those aged 60 and above).

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Britons with declining wellbeing relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms

The continued pandemic-driven strain on mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing has led some Britons to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the cumulative stress and uncertainty, such as increased alcohol consumption. The research found that 19 per cent of respondents increased alcohol consumption early in the pandemic (March to May 2020) and more than half of respondents (52 per cent) reported that they have maintained the same level of alcohol consumption in recent months (October 2020 to January 2021) when compared to early in the pandemic. An additional 11 per cent of respondents indicated that alcohol consumption has increased from October 2020 to January 2021, when compared with early in the pandemic.

Individuals who reported increased alcohol consumption early in the pandemic also reported the lowest mental health score (-24.1) when compared to those who do not drink (-11.5), or those who decreased their alcohol consumption (-13.7).

“As the U.K. population faces the reality that the country has been under immense pressure for a full year, employers’ actions regarding mental health have never been more important,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “In addition to workplace stigma and social stigma, self-stigma is a prevalent issue amongst respondents and it’s especially important to keep in mind that others around us could be suffering silently. We need to continue taking action to help diminish the stigma of mental health. It’s in our collective responsibility as employers, colleagues and friends to ensure those in need feel supported.”

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