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Mental health stigmas driving 2 in 5 senior staff to 'self-medicate'

Almost 40% of UK business leaders have 'self-medicated' with drugs and alcohol to help with their mental health.

The findings come from Bupa Global's Executive Wellbeing Index report which aims to highlight the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the wellbeing of senior business people around the world.

Including data from almost 2,000 senior executives based across Europe, the US, the Middle East and Asia, the report revealed worrying behaviours when it comes to managing their mental wellbeing.

As many as 6 in 10 senior staff reported having turned to potentially unhealthy coping mechanisms, including the almost 40% that have used alcohol or drugs (both recreational and over-the-counter). Others have engaged in smoking, exercising excessively, gambling, or over- or under-eating.

Eight in 10 business leaders also reported experiencing symptoms of poor mental health, including fatigue, disturbed sleep and mood swings.

Perhaps most worryingly though are the causes for these behaviours. As well as financial pressures and personal concerns, 2 in 5 reported that potential damage to their reputation was preventing them from seeking professional help.

According to the report, just 1 in 4 participants had spoken to a medical professional. Meanwhile, 1 in 3 self-medicate as they can't talk to anyone.

"The pandemic is taking its toll on business leaders," said Dr Luke James, Bupa Global's Medical Director. "With complex networks of colleagues, investors, affiliates as well as their own families to consider, it's no surprise that many have felt that they must 'keep calm and carry on', rather than facing up to mental health issues head on.

"But while self-medication can seem like a quick-fix solution, it won't solve the underlying mental health issues and could ultimately make things worse."

As businesses worldwide continue to navigate the Coronavirus pandemic, awareness of mental health in the workplace has soared. A recent report commissioned by AXA revealed that 64% of workers across Europe had seen an increase in work-related stress while 1 in 4 UK workers aged 25–34 stated that their mental health had deteriorated during the pandemic.

Some positives were also revealed by the report though, with more people prioritising their mental health and more people accepting others for seeking professional help for their mental wellbeing.


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