Employer Branding

Why Employers Need to Better Support Graduates’ Mental Health

The mental health crisis amongst university students is extremely worrying, but it is often forgotten that graduates can struggle post-university once they’ve entered the workforce, too.

Whilst there is clearly still work to be done to ensure students are receiving adequate support at university, there is, even more, to be done to ensure graduates are equally supported when making the transition from education into the workplace. Employers have a big part to play in helping graduates overcome these barriers in a professional environment.

For Mental Health Awareness Week, we surveyed 1,000 working graduates in the UK, and 70 percent claimed they would avoid informing prospective or new employers about their mental health issues, in fear that it would have a negative impact on their career progression and position.

Given that one in four people in the UK workforce will experience at least one diagnosable mental health issue during their working life, the fact that almost nine out of ten respondents (88%) said they believe there is still a negative stigma attached to admitting to suffering from a mental health issue is of grave concern.

Employer support for struggling employees

From our survey we discovered that of the 70 percent who said they would avoid telling an employer about their mental health issues, 83 percent said they would be more inclined to seek mental health support if their employer offered an ‘off the record’ – or entirely anonymous – service or services that would be kept separate from their employment record.

Despite this overwhelming response, nearly 7 in 10 (67%) graduates said their company doesn’t offer ‘off the record’ support to employees.

When asked what form of ‘off the record’ support they would prefer to use, respondents said:

  • Face-to-face meeting (61%)
  • WhatsApp, or other instant online chat (19%)
  • Email (10%)
  • Via video call (7%)
  • SMS / text messaging (3%)

It’s disappointing to see that some employers are failing entry-level talent when it comes to their wellbeing. Our survey also found that only 15 percent of graduates described the support provided by their employer as ‘good’, with only half (51%) saying it was ‘adequate’ and 34 percent labeling it as ‘poor’.

These statistics show that graduates don’t feel their workplaces are adequately equipped to support workers with mental health issues. Whilst mental health concerns are being discussed more openly in wider society; it seems there is still a lot to be done in regards to the stigma associated with admitting to suffering from mental health issues, and the support offered to those transitioning from education to employment.

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), an employer must protect the health, safety, and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business. A practical, collaborative approach between teams and individuals within a company is essential to ensure all staff are being looked after and to reassure them that any additional support they require will not be held against their future employment record. Employers should pay extra care and attention to entry-level talent new to the world of work, as they may struggle to adapt to a new role within a company.

In an age when employers are increasing their demands for better-prepared graduates who can settle into any industry using cross-sector skills, it’s vital for businesses to prioritize the welfare of their employees – no matter what age or stage in their career. Not only do graduates face the pressure of performing well at work, but workplace culture and other social aspects can add to their anxieties.

Supporting new graduates as they transition from university to work should be a significant consideration of progressive employers. If graduate recruitment specialists want to attract – and more importantly, keep – the best talent as they emerge from education, they need to know what issues students and graduates are facing, and how best to support them.

Employers need to take note of the information revealed by our latest survey and ensure they are providing anonymous, ‘off the record’ support for this future workforce.

About the author: Charlie Taylor, is the Founder & CEO of Debut, UK’s award-winning student and graduate careers app.

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