On his mission to tackle the negative stigma surrounding mental health, Prince William recently unveiled the Mental Health at Work project in partnership with the charity Mind. In an effort to address pressing workplace mental health issues, this initiative is designed to provide employers with improved access to tools and materials required to better support staff.

Although awareness and understanding of mental illness has undoubtedly grown over the past few years, there is still much to be done to address the unnecessary stigmas and negative connotations linked to mental health – particularly within the workplace.

Sadly, mental ill-health continues to be a significant cause of workplace absence. In fact, the 2018 CIPD Wellbeing at Work survey revealed that more than a fifth of organisations cited mental illness as the primary cause of long-term absenteeism. The Prime Minister’s 2017 independent ‘Thriving at Work’ report also shed much-needed light on the issue when it revealed that every year, a staggering 300,000 people lose their jobs due to mental health problems.

Although it feels somewhat insensitive to link these figures to economic productivity, the fact remains that left unaddressed, workplace ill-health will continue to cost the UK economy up to £99 billion every year.

Obstacles faced when getting professional help

Despite all the hard work that has been done to encourage open discussions about mental health in the professional work environment, there still remains a lingering stigma around the topic. Largely stemming from common misperceptions and a lack of understanding, mental health is unfortunately considered a ‘taboo’ topic in many high-pressure professions like doctoring and banking.

Unfortunately, this means that employees in these environments are unwilling to speak out about their struggles and seek the help that they desperately need – for fear that in doing so, they will risk jeopardising their career. In fact, a recent study by the Mental Health Foundation discovered that 67% of employees feel scared, embarrassed or unable to talk about mental health concerns with their employer.

For many, a lack of time is also a prohibitive factor. Leading busy working lives, many professionals simply don’t have the time to go to a therapy session after work or on weekends. This is complicated by the fact that it is incredibly difficult to book physical therapy sessions outside of work hours.

With the many challenges faced by sufferers of ill-heath, more needs to be done to foster an open environment within the workplace and ensure workers can easily access the treatment they need in a confidential and flexible manner.

How to take advantage of HealthTech

Many employers who do identify mental health as a priority often struggle to find the resources they need to effectively create an open dialogue in the workplace. Mental Health at Work is trying to address this problem by providing an online portal full of online training resources.

Using existing technology to educate people in all positions about symptoms of mental ill-health, and signposting those suffering to available support mechanisms is vital in helping people recognise mental health problems. This is an effective example of technology addressing mental-ill health in the workplace, but in reality, so much more can be done. Another example of technology used to address chronic pain or depressions is the use of LED light therapy. This kind of therapy can help in some cases, for example with seasonal affective disorders.

The availability of live video technology, for instance, allows busy professionals to see a therapist at their convenience. Mynurva is one example of an online platform offering quick booking and flexible appointment times, so that those struggling with mental health issues have the ability to speak to a therapist outside of regular office hours and on weekends – all via a live video call that can be made on a smartphone, tablet or computer.

And what’s more, with confidentiality being a key concern for those in high-pressure work environments, technological innovations can give working professionals the relief of private counselling – eliminating the added stress of worrying about employers and colleagues finding out.

With new technological innovations regularly coming on the market, these digital innovations offer much-needed alternative options for those who are unable or not comfortable booking a face-to-face appointment with a therapist. Moreover, digital solutions like live vide counselling offer employees accessible new ways of treating their mental health symptoms. For this reason, employers should also become aware of new technologies that are available and openly encourage their employees to seek treatment from these instruments if necessary.

Having worked as a GP for several years, Dr Zain Sikafi founded Mynurva to improve access to mental health support. Mynurva provides fast access to therapy or counselling, confidentially, securely and discreetly, via its live video platform. There are no waiting rooms, no travelling is required, and the service is confidential, discrete and secure.