A SHOCKING 77% of South West respondents would worry about disclosing a mental health condition to their employer, a Priory study reveals today.

The South West was one of the least-diagnosed regions for mental health in the UK, with only 11.9% of respondents experiencing ill mental health.

Despite such a low diagnosis rate, however, the soaring levels of anxiety around mental health conditions suggest that the region is particularly susceptible to mental health stigma in the work environment.

Unsurprisingly then, more than four in ten would consider self-employment instead of facing this level of isolation in the full-time or part-time workforce.

The study turns the North-South divide on its head, as the South West and South East had the lowest rates of diagnosis, whereas Yorkshire and the North West were the most diagnosed – but these Northern regions felt least worried about disclosing their mental status to their employer.

On a national level the study found that:

• 79% of those polled without a mental health condition would worry about telling their employer if they did have one, exposing a national struggle with stigma.

• A shockingly small 22% of part-time and 19% of self-employed workers felt that they could disclose a mental health condition to an employer.

• 91% of those awaiting a mental health diagnosis felt the stigma around mental health would lead/has led them to consider self-employment.

Dr Richard Bowskill, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Priory Hospital Brighton and Hove: “There’s a huge amount of stigma out there, especially in the workplace. I’ve had numerous cases where people have been sacked because of their depression - they’ve been discriminated against because of a mental illness.

"I think the big thing is the impact of stigma. People generally say that the stigma of having a diagnosed mental illness can be as bad as the symptoms that they actually experience. They compare it with other illnesses, for example the stigma of cancer or heart problems – the stigma of mental illness is still very much higher.”

Paul Booth, a successful businessman and bipolar sufferer who now campaigns for an overhaul in workplace mental health: “A lot of people who didn’t have a diagnosed condition would come to me and say, ‘you’re so brave. I’ve got a condition but I don’t tell anybody because I know it would kill my career’. That was mentioned to me numerous times.”

“In South Africa, as long as it was out in the open, it was like there was no elephant in the room, nothing waiting to come out. It would be very difficult to be that open about my condition in the UK. I think I would struggle to get a job, to be honest.”

“It’s about time we got the dialogue out and people start saying, these people are assets, they’re not liabilities to us. They are just us.”

Poppy Jaman, CEO of Mental Health First Aid England: “Sadly, The Priory’s research findings are indicative of the stigma that continues to shroud mental health and the impact it has on those who are experiencing a mental health issue.

"We already know that one in six British workers will experience a mental health problem at some point in their career, but the fear of discrimination often prevents them from accessing help and support early on and these latest figures further demonstrate the very real fear that employees have around disclosing mental health issues to their employers.”