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Monday, 1 April, 2002, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Job applicants 'quiet' on mental problems
Office
The workplace is becoming more supportive
Only one in three people with experience of mental health problems feel confident in disclosing this on job application forms, according to research.

However, the study by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) found many of those who have succeeded in finding employment gain the support and attitudes of employers and colleagues when they do "come out".

The study is based on a survey of over 400 people with personal experience of mental health problems.


Things are starting to change for the better

Ruth Lesirge
Across the UK, three in 10 employees will experience mental health problems in any one year.

MHF chief executive Ruth Lesirge said: "The results clearly show that things are starting to change for the better."

Ms Lesirge said many of those who were in employment believed that they were 'unique' or 'extremely fortunate' in receiving support from their employer and being accepted by colleagues.

She said this was perhaps because they were comparing this with their earlier experiences.

Still problems

However, she said: "It is still only a minority of people with mental health problems who are in employment.

"This is despite the evidence from our research that people with mental health problems make a considerable contribution in terms of voluntary or unpaid work.

"In order that employers don't overlook a valuable resource it is essential that they focus on people's experience rather than their diagnosis."

Less than half of those with psychosis, schizophrenia or manic depression who took part in the survey were in full-time or part-time employment.

People with anxiety or depression were more likely to be employed - but still less than six out of ten were employed on a full-time or part-time basis.

Overall one in five of those who responded were doing voluntary work, with people with schizophrenia or manic depression most likely to be working as volunteers.

Confide

Although many people did not feel that they could be honest about their problems when they applied for a job, nine out of 10 of those who were currently working had confided to somebody at work.

Those who had been open about their experiences generally felt supported and accepted.

Over half reported that they always or often had support when they needed it, with a further one in five sometimes getting support.

Around two out of three said that people at work were always or often accepting towards them.

Exacerbating the problem

However, the report also paints a picture of pressures at work causing or exacerbating mental health problems.

Nearly two out of three believed that factors such as unrealistic workload, unreasonable expectations and long hours were a major contributor to their mental health problems.

One in three believed that bullying at work had been a factor.

The Mental Health Foundation report recommends:

  • The Disability Rights Commission addresses discrimination against people with mental health problems
  • The government promotes employment schemes and encourages people to be honest about their problems
  • Employers audit their workplace practice to root out problems
  • More mental health awareness training in schools

See also:

17 Apr 01 | Health
Mental illness 'kept secret'
06 Aug 01 | Business
One in three 'lie on CVs'
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