Dr Zain Sikafi
Dr Zain Sikafi, Founder of Mynurva

Mental health has become an important topic of discussion recently – especially in light of the wave of celebrities and public figures speaking up about their struggles and encouraging open and honest conversations. It’s now become common to read about mental health in the newspapers and magazines, and to hear about it on TV. Unfortunately, however, the topic still carries a ‘taboo’ in some sectors of society – and this particularly when it comes to the workplace, writes Dr Zain Sikafi.

Mental health at work

There’s no denying it – mental health is a pressing national issue that requires urgent attention. The Prime Minister’s ‘Thriving for Work’ report revealed just how extreme the problem is within the workplace; indeed, every year, 91 million working days are lost to poor mental wellbeing – costing the UK economy up to £99 billion annually. Sadly, this also means that 300,000 people lose their jobs each year due to mental health problems.

The stigma attached to mental health often means that people are reluctant to seek the help that they desperately need for fear of reprisal – worried that speaking out about their issues could have a negative impact on their job. In fact, most employees opt to keep quiet about their struggles, resulting in a poor uptake of conventional treatment offerings – merely 20 per cent of these support mechanisms are utilised.

This is despite the high prevalence of mental health issues within the professional environments; the 2017 Mental Health at Work Report revealed that almost a third (31 per cent) of professionals had been formally diagnosed with a mental health issue, with three out of every five employees having experienced mental health issues in the past year because of work. By contrast, a massive 67 per cent of employees feel scared, embarrassed or unable to talk about mental health concerns with their employer according to the Mental Health Foundation.

The role of technology  

The need for absolute confidentiality is often cited as the main factor preventing employees from taking advantage of the treatment on offer to them. Luckily, technology and digital innovations can play an important role in treating mental health by offering much-needed solutions to problems of confidentiality and convenience.

Alternative options for those seeking help now include solutions like video counselling, as offered by the Mynurva app. Mynurva allows clients to schedule and undertake counselling appointments online via live video technology completely confidentially, and even better – clients can access therapy from the comfort of their own homes, outside of traditional working hours. This means that even evenings and weekends are no longer out of reach for those seeking professional help, and employees struggling with mental health now have the ability to tackle their problems without having to disclose their personal issues to their managers or colleagues.

Although there have been noticeable improvements in the way we think about mental health treatment in the UK, much more needs to be done to ensure that the current stigma is removed, and that effective support mechanisms are in place to help those in need of treatment.

Proactive measures need to be taken especially within workplaces to foster an open discussion about mental wellbeing. The role of technology in supporting mental health should not be looked over, as it can provide necessary avenues of support for those who require confidentiality and flexibility – and particularly those in demanding professions who are faced with long, inflexible working hours.

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 and securely, via its live video platform.