Grant Thornton signs 'Time to Change' pledge to end mental health discrimination

11 December 2017 Consultancy.uk

Grant Thornton has joined the likes of Royal Mail, the NHS and Barclays to become the latest large employer to sign the Time to Change pledge. The UK-focused scheme is aimed at changing business attitudes, and ending the stigmatisation of mental illness in the workplace.

The prevalence of mental illnesses in the UK remains high, with one in four individuals currently suffering at least one episode of some variety throughout their lives. Currently, around 8% of the population is in a state of depression – prescriptions for depression were up 46% to 57 million last year. While having a mental illness can be debilitating, negatively affecting one’s own projects as well those of others, the stigmas that society continues to project onto mental health problems is an additional barrier to recovery faced by sufferers.

Workplace mental health initiatives have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. Companies have sought to engage staff in treatment and support programmes in order to maintain a healthy workforce, although such efforts have often neglected the fact that a chief contributor to degrading mental health is often inadequate pay, with UK wages still stagnating. Meanwhile, programmes aimed at engaging staff already affected by mental health conditions often find it difficult to reach employees as stigmatisation remains a key issue, with those suffering from illness still characterised as work-shirkers, or incompetents.Grant Thornton signs 'Time to Change' pledge to end mental health discriminationIn a bid to combat this outdated thinking, and ensure sufferers are confident to come forward and accept potentially life-altering help, Grant Thornton has become the latest of more than 300 signatories of the Time to Change pledge. The current list of support includes the likes of E.ON, British Gas, Transport for London, Royal Mail, Barclays, Shell, Pepsico, the Church of England, Sunday Mirror, Marks and Spencer, and many NHS trusts, universities, and local authorities. The pledge will see the firm look at ways of stamping out discrimination of those afflicted by harder to see, but no less impactful, illnesses.

Commenting on his experiences with mental health support at Grant Thornton, Partner Perry Burton said, “Having spoken out about my own mental health issues I know how important it is that we create an environment where our people feel they have the space and permission to talk openly. The stigma attached to ‘mental illness’ still exists and the only way to break this down is to encourage and support people in being open about their own challenges.”

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said, “It is fantastic that more and more employers are showing their support in tackling the stigma experienced by people with mental health problems. Employers and their staff can all play a part in helping to stamp out stigma and companies like Grant Thornton are taking a lead.

Adding that, aside from a wider social commitment to a vibrant economy and society, supporting mental health has positive business outcomes, “Many leading employers have found that making a strategic commitment to the mental wellbeing of their workforce not only has benefits for their staff but also benefits their bottom-line, improving productivity and staff retention. With one in six British workers experiencing mental illness it's time for businesses to work on their approach and start creating more mentally healthy workplaces."

Grant Thornton is also part of England’s biggest anti-stigma programme, which is led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and funded by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund.

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