Employees hiding mental health conditions from managers during global pandemic

05 March 2021 . United Kingdom

  • Just 14% of those surveyed reveal mental health conditions to managers, with a third (30%) telling no one
  • Bupa UK Insurance expands partnership with SilverCloud, a mental health support platform, to corporate customers using Bupa Touch, its digital portal, at no extra charge
Woman working from home

Employees are keeping silent about their mental health conditions at work during the global pandemic, despite the fact that work has been a contributing factor for many, new research from Bupa and Business in the Community (BITC) has found.

The study of 3,614 employees by Business in the Community in partnership with Bupa and the BITC Wellbeing Leadership Team found that just 14% of workers disclosed to their manager that they were suffering from a mental health issue. And a third (30%) of people who have experienced work-related mental ill-health have told no one, with men significantly more likely to keep their condition a secret (35%) compared with women (26%).

Even during a global pandemic, work-related pressure was identified as the most common cause of mental health issues (51%), while another 35% put symptoms down to workload, long hours, and not taking enough leave. A third (31%) of participants said that their mental ill-health was caused by not being supported in their role, potentially an indication of their reluctance to share their circumstances.

As part of its response to the mental health issues caused by the pandemic, Bupa is now expanding access to SilverCloud for its corporate insurance customers* at no extra charge via Bupa Touch, its online customer portal. SilverCloud is a mental and behavioural health platform that supports employees in developing resilience and wellbeing strategies, helping prevent everyday mental stresses and strains from developing into more serious issues. Built on years of clinical research, the platform has developed over 30 evidence-based mental health programmes and is accredited by NICE and the NHS, amongst other leading bodies. Programmes available via Bupa Touch include support for stress, sleep, resilience, money worries, alcohol, positive body image and COVID-19.

Whilst Bupa and SilverCloud have previously partnered to offer selected mental health services,** this is the first time that the healthcare company is offering SilverCloud to its corporate health insurance customers* at no extra charge.

Mark Allan, Commercial Director at Bupa UK Insurance said: “Although mental health has come to the fore during the global pandemic, and addressing these issues is a priority for many businesses, the research shows that a good number of employees feel uncomfortable turning to their manager for help. Whilst businesses around the country are focused on creating cultures that are open about mental health it can be difficult for workers, especially when working remotely, to have these kinds of complex conversations. SilverCloud offers a digital route for these employees to seek mental health support and take further action, if needed.”

Encouragingly, although 41% of workers experienced work-related mental health symptoms in the last year, almost two thirds believe that their employer has recognised the challenges posed by COVID-19. Half (50%) feel that their organisation has good mental health support, so whilst COVID-19 has increased the amount of mental health issues experienced on the whole, only 9% of respondents felt that a lack of support during COVID-19 had caused mental health issues related to work.

Mark added: “Support from your manager can act as a lynchpin in these times and we recognise the need for digital support for businesses. Bupa offers a number of mental health services within our Bupa from Home offering including Direct Access, which gives health insurance customers fast access to mental health specialists, usually without needing to see a GP first. We have also launched our new Family Mental HealthLine for customers, to help parents and children get the support they need.

“And to ensure mental health resources are accessible to everyone, we have also enhanced our free Mental Health Hub. This includes practical resources and advice from resident mental health experts for those looking for guidance and support on topics spanning from children’s and family mental health to sleep disorders. And for those wanting to speak with a GP, we offer access to video GP appointments through a partnership with Babylon.”

In line with these findings BITC and Bupa are encouraging organisations to continue to prioritise employee wellbeing as workers face more uncertainty as the pandemic continues.

The Mental Health at Work Commitment is a set of actions that any organisation can follow to improve and support the mental health of their people:

  1. Prioritise mental health in the workplace by developing and delivering a systematic programme of activity
  2. Proactively ensure work design and organisation culture drive positive mental health outcomes
  3. Promote an open culture around mental health
  4. Increase organisational awareness and confidence in mental health with training, education, and resources for managers and individuals
  5. Provide mental health tools and support
  6. Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting

Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director at Business in the Community, said:

“Businesses need to be aware that excessive workplace pressure and workload may be causing mental health issues. When we are at work, we don’t expect to be physically injured and nor should our mental health be harmed. This inequality needs to be addressed by employers protecting mental health and safety and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone through better ways of working. Now is the time to prioritise wellbeing for all by enshrining ways of working that tackle the systemic root causes of poor mental health, create cultures of trust and belonging, where everyone feels safe to speak up and be actively listened to.

Lloyd Humphreys, Head of Europe at SilverCloud Health added:

“It has been well known, even before the pandemic, that mental health and wellbeing is one of the most important areas to address for employers. With the continuing impact of COVID it has now become a critical need. As such, we are delighted to support Bupa expand access to the SilverCloud platform to get evidence-based mental health and wellbeing support into as many hands as possible.”

Notes to editor

Business in the Community and Bupa commissioned YouGov to survey 3,614 UK workers between 10 and 24 August 2020.

* Extension of SilverCloud services is available at no extra charge to corporate health insurance and Health Trust customers who have access to Bupa Touch, Bupa’s digital platform. Offer excludes SME customers.

** Bupa and SilverCloud have previously partnered to provide cognitive behavioural therapy through Bupa’s Direct Access service. Bupa’s Clinics business has also worked with SilverCloud to support its EAP service, and the programmes form part of their Be.Me wellbeing app and new health assessments launched in September. Be.Me helps you understand more about your health so you can be at your best. Track your fitness across all your devices and create a unique health profile.

About SilverCloud

SilverCloud Health is the trusted leader in digital mental health and wellbeing. Built on three decades of research, our platform has shown the long-term impact and cost-effectiveness of SilverCloud. Our platform provides internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) and other proven methods to help people manage their mental health and wellbeing.

Over half a million people have been helped by 300+ organisations with our 30+ digital therapy programmes. From children to older adults receiving over two million hours of online therapy. For more information, visit www.silvercloudhealth.com/uk

About Bupa’s mental health services

Key features of the mental health cover for our UK health insurance customers include:

Extended cover with all* mental health conditions covered – Bupa covers all addictions, including drug, alcohol, and non-substance related addictions.

No time limits – mental health conditions are complex and can recur. Bupa customers will have access to medical treatment and support if their condition comes back

Ongoing support. – those diagnosed with mental health conditions will be provided with help to manage their condition and prevent worsening symptoms. For example, if treatment involves ongoing, daily medication, they will have regular reviews to ensure they are on the most effective and appropriate treatment. If there is a clinical need, customers can have a follow-up appointment with a consultant psychiatrist

Support is for all new customers and renewing customers where they have mental health cover, provided within members’ individual mental health benefit limits.

*The only exceptions are dementia and learning, behavioural and developmental conditions.

Bupa Direct Access is a self-referral service which gives health insurance customers access to mental health specialists, without needing a GP referral.

About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives and making a better world.

We are an international healthcare company serving over 31 million customers worldwide. With no shareholders, our customers are our focus. We reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

Health insurance accounts for 17.9m customers and contributes 72% of our revenue. In health provision, we operate clinics, dental centres and hospitals in some markets serving another 13.6m customers. We also care for around 20,000 residents in our aged care businesses in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Spain.

We directly employ around 84,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Chile, Poland, New Zealand, Hong Kong SAR, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, the US, Middle East and Ireland. We also have associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

For more information, visit www.bupa.com.