The Issue of Mental Health in Leadership – The Stevenson Farmer Review

We all know how important it is to stay fit and well so we can succeed both at work and in life. However, for a long time, most of the focus of Occupational Health was keeping people physically well, and making adaptations for physical disabilities. Our Mental Health and Wellbeing (not to mention those with hidden disabilities) was distinctly left out of the discussion.


That was, until Prime Minister Theresa May commissioned the Thriving at Workreport by Stevenson and Farmer. The report would prove to be the catalyst for a new era of wellbeing in the workplace. Here, we take a closer look.




Thriving at Work: the Stevenson Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers was published in October 2017. Information and insights were gathered from over 200 employers of people with mental health difficulties. Further information was also taken from leading experts in working and mental health. The objective was to set out a new set of standards that businesses should commit to. Namely improving their employee wellbeing and creating a healthier, happier place to work.




The report makes a number of startling observations about the amount of time and money lost by businesses due to poor employee mental wellbeing. The UK economy has suffered losses between £74 billion to £99 billion a year due to mental health related issues at work. This includes any days lost due to absenteeism and also ‘presenteeism’; describing those who remain at work but have reduced levels of productivity because of their poor mental state.


‘Finally it is perhaps most shocking that this equates to 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition losing their jobs every year. This is the equivalent of the whole population of Newcastle or Belfast.’  – Thriving at Work, Stevenson & Farmer.


Stevenson and Farmer outlined three categories to define where someone might fall with their mental wellbeing and work: ‘thriving at work’, ‘struggling in work’ and ‘ill, possibly off work’. They argue that most people will fluctuate between the three throughout their lives but that those with mental health issues should be able to thrive at work with the right support in place.




Together, Stevenson and Farmer produced a number of guidelines for employers from SMEs to large corporations. These included businesses producing (and implementing) mental health at work plans for employees, developing a culture of mental health awareness and promoting effective and positive people management. At Courtney Associates, we want to help support businesses with implementing these changes. You can find out more about our Mental Health Awareness course here.


It’s safe to say that mental health, particularly in the workplace has never had such a spotlight. That’s not to say now is the time to become complacent. The culture of mental health awareness must be bred from the CEO down to the employee on their first day at the business. Only then will we see nationwide change. It’s encouraging to see businesses implementing these guidelines; here are just a few examples.


Significant changes are still being made to the marriage of work and mental health. Soon, we will hopefully all be able to successfully thrive, not just survive at work.

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