Can data shape the future of mental health support?
Open data is being used to design resources for people with mental health conditions to help them find the right support.
Photograph: Maksim Kabakou/Alamy
If you’re experiencing a mental health issue, one of the people you probably least want to speak to about it is your employer. Disclosing depression or anxiety has long been seen as the last workplace taboo, for fear of repercussions. This is despite the existence of the Equality Act 2010, which protects employees with physical and mental disabilities from discrimination.
But just over a third of workers with a mental health condition discuss it with their employer, according to a survey of 1,388 employees carried out by Willis PMI Group, one of the UK’s largest providers of employee healthcare and risk management services. The research found that 30% of respondents were concerned that they wouldn’t receive adequate support, 28% believed their employer wouldn’t understand, and 23% feared that disclosing it would lead to management thinking less of them.
A culture of fear and silence can have a huge impact on productivity – the charity Mind estimates that mental ill health costs the economy £70bn a year. The challenge is that seeking help involves taking ownership of the problem, says Mark Brown, development director of social enterprise Social Spider and founder of the now defunct mental health and wellbeing magazine One in Four. And finding support online can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience.
“Just serving up ever great slabs of information – the internet is awash with it – isn’t going to help anyone to know what to do,” says Brown. “We often confuse the provision of information with the solving of problems. Knowing information is different from knowing how to put that information into action.”
Brown believes that bringing together information with public and open data into a single digital space is one way that could innovate how advice is delivered.