Mental Health

How Mental Health Has Become Nothing But A Buzzword

Discussing the hypocrisy surrounding mental health in business

Mental health is a hot topic these days. Wherever you look, people are talking about it – on the news, on social media and at schools. Whilst it’s great that society seems finally interested in shattering the stigma attached to mental illness, it’s becoming more and more apparent that in certain places, this is nothing but a trend. Why? Because the hypocrisy surrounding mental health in business is staggering.

Let me start with a personal example. For years, I’ve had to deal with anxious and obsessive thoughts and I’ve experienced them within every establishment I’ve ever worked in. My struggle with these problems was to be expected. What was not, however, was just how two-faced people could be about mental health. On the one hand, I’ve seen companies brag about their counselling services on job listings and proclaim in press releases how they would never exploit vulnerable people. Yet, I’ve then witnessed these same companies peer pressure co-workers into drinking, snigger at meditation practices that alleviate anxiety, and liaise with organisations whose sole aim is to make money off unhealthy habits. It’s no wonder then, that in one of these places of work, I experienced such a prolonged panic attack that I ended up in A&E, but I couldn’t talk about it the next day in fear of being judged.

Perhaps if only I had encountered such a situation, it could be excused as an unfortunate coincidence, but statistics state otherwise. According to the Mental Health at Work Report in 2017, “84% of managers accept that employee well-being is their responsibility”, yet “less than a quarter (24%) of managers have received any training in mental health“.  These figures then surely explain why despite 60% of employees admitting to having experienced a mental health problem in the last year, only 11% of them felt comfortable in disclosing it to their line-managers. Companies talk the talk, but clearly don’t often bother to walk the walk – at least in terms of their employees, as the mental health of customers is a whole other ball game.

Because the truth is, mental health only matters when it sells – and that it does. The Ethical Consumers Market Report in 2017 found that for the last fourteen years, the sales of ethical products in the UK have grown faster than those of ordinary products – and mental health is just another step onto that bandwagon. With many industries being unable to prove how they ethically source their products – compare the finance and technological sectors to food and retail, for example – what better way to get a thumbs up from society than proclaim that mental health is their upmost concern?

So the next time you hear a business preaching about how much they care about mental health, consider resisting the urge to applaud them because it may only be a half-truth. Yes, some companies may seem to have their customers’ mental well-being at the forefront of their campaigns, but if they aren’t willing to support their employees, should we really be celebrating their achievements?

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