Continuing our series highlighting different areas of discussion that have come to the fore recently, we look at Mental Health issues following Catherine Zeta Jones’ announcement that she suffers from Bipolar disorder.
Mental Health: ‘the last taboo?’
Although about 1% of the population suffer from bipolar disorder, or manic depression, it is not something that people like to own up to.
Therefore it was courageous of Catherine Zeta Jones to announce that she is being treated for it following the stress of helping her husband, Michael Douglas, fight cancer.
Zeta Jones’s publicist, Cece Yorke, said:
“After dealing with the stress of the past year, Catherine made the decision to check into a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat her Bipolar II disorder,”
“She’s feeling great and looking forward to starting work this week on her two upcoming films.”
Mark Davies, from mental health charity Rethink, said the actress had shown courage in revealing the disorder as there was still a stigma around mental illness:
“Although she’ll be feeling pretty fragile and vulnerable, she will have – in a sense – given some comfort to a lot of other people who are probably suffering in silence and probably feeling a great deal of fear,”
and Alun Thomas of the Welsh mental health charity Hafal commented:
“The important part of this news is Catherine has sought help.
“Many parts of the press can sensationalise this but I think it’s important to discuss the issues sensitively and raise awareness.
“Many creative and famous people have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder… there are many people out there who have recovered and gone to be very productive in their lives.”
Also this week Alastair Campbell gave Wednesday’s keynote speech to the Royal College of Nurses’ conference and discussed mental health issues, which he is passionate about. Inevitably part of his speech was political but it was also about his own experience.
As Michael White of the Guardian wrote:
Campbell was political. When is he not? But he was better than that. There to beat the drum for mental health – which he now champions in many ways – he started with a winning show of vulnerability, speaking about his boozing, his psychotic episodes, the breakdown and paranoid voices, his arrest in 1986. There was a serious point to this: mental illness still carries a stigma that cancer or a broken leg does not. When Blair offered him that job he had confessed all. “I’m not bothered if you’re not bothered,” said Blair. “What if I’m bothered?” “I’m still not bothered.” It was gripping.
Mental Health in the Workplace
Last December The Shaw Trust produced a report “Mental Health: Still the last workplace taboo” examining employer attitudes compared to a similar survey in 2006.
The key findings were:
- Mental health remains the last workplace taboo whilst 40% of employers view workers with mental health conditions as a ‘significant risk’.
- Generally understanding is broader and big improvements have been made in some areas. Only 11% of employers agree that none of their staff will be affected by mental ill health, down from 41% in 2006
- However given 1 in 6 workers will experience mental ill health at some point in their working life 42% of employers are still underestimating the prevalence of mental health in their workplace.
- The vast majority (90%) of managers say they would be happy discussing mental health issues with an employee and 73% with an applicant, however, when employers are so affected by negative perceptions of mental ill health many applicants may feel it is in their best interest not to disclose information.
- Despite increased awareness 72% of workplaces still have no formal mental health policy.
- Finding a workplace adequate mental health policy and level of understanding is a lottery but the presence of an HR department can be beneficial. However, major barriers remain in the way of people with mental health conditions seeking employment.
The full report is available at
It should be noted that the views expressed are a personal opinion