Drop in number of people who believe it is OK to ask boss for a mental health break since the pandemic

Fewer people feel comfortable asking managers for time off due to mental health difficulties. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Eilish O'Regan

Fewer people now believe it would be all right to explain to their boss they needed time off due to a mental health difficulty than before the pandemic, a new survey has revealed.

In 2019, some 61pc believed it would be OK to ask for a break because of mental health problems, but this fell to 56pc last year.

The findings from St Patrick’s Mental Health Services in Dublin follow on from results showing that 22pc of people have experienced discrimination at work due to a mental health difficulty.

It found 55pc of people are not aware that people with mental health difficulties have the right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

These include access to support for time off and a change in work responsibilities.

However, there has been a 12pc increase in the number of people who would tell a colleague if they were experiencing a mental health difficulty.

Some 66pc of people believe that someone who experiences panic attacks could work as head of a large company.

And 43pc have had positive experiences of disclosing mental health difficulties at work.

Also, 46pc of people believe that workplaces in Ireland are open to employing people with mental health difficulties.

Speaking about his experience of mental health and work, Gary Kiernan, chair of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services’ Service Users and Supports Council, said: “After experiencing depression for a number of years, I began to realise that I had self-stigmatising attitudes towards my own mental health which were acting as a barrier to me seeking the supports I required both in my personal life and in the workplace.

“It was only when I accepted my own mental health did I become more aware of the effects of stigma and how it can act as a barrier.”

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services has launched a new suite of resources as part of its “no stigma” campaign to see how to support people with mental health difficulties in the workplace, and to highlight the rights of these employees, as well as the role of employers.

The resources include a short video that explains what people’s rights are in relation to their mental health and the workplace; a blog that explores how we can achieve a life without stigma in the workplace; and an information resource booklet which includes information on mental health and rights in the workplace, returning to work after a mental health difficulty, along with supports for employees and the role of the employer.

In addition to the suite of resources being launched, a #NoStigma in the workplace webinar will be held this Thursday and will include speakers with lived experiences of mental health difficulties and representatives from EmployAbility, the Open Doors Initiative and the Rehab Group.