Why we need to start talking about mental health in the workplace


Despite the considerable efforts made by many organisations in both the public and private sector to provide better support and treatments for sufferers of depression, anxiety and stress, there is still a damaging stigma attached to mental health, particularly when individuals suffer at work.

In Legal & General’s recent survey, 51% of over 2,000 full-time employees admitted to suffering from depression, anxiety or stress at least once a week. On top of this, fewer than 10% of employees who experienced these issues felt able to talk to a manager or supervisor about them, whilst 78% of employers believe employees feel comfortable raising concerns with a superior. Sadly, around one in five surveyed felt they couldn’t talk to anyone about mental health issues.

Much to be done 

This huge difference in the attitude between employers and employees towards openly discussing mental health issues shows just how much work there is to be done. It would appear that the workplace has become somewhere to ‘suffer in silence’, and this needs to change. It is vital that employees feel they are able to be open and honest about mental health issues given how much time we spend during our lifetimes in a work environment.

Separate research has indicated that one in four people will experience a mental health issue in a year, showing that it can affect a huge number of people in the UK. Awareness campaigns such as ‘Time to Change’ and their annual ‘Time to Talk Day’ are doing great work in encouraging open discussions between colleagues, friends, families and schoolmates, which is an extremely welcome step in the right direction. 

We joined this campaign in 2013 and have regularly enhanced the mental health support and services available to staff since, the latest development being a team of mental health first aiders trained to recognise symptoms in others and who are to support them.

To combat stigmas surrounding mental health in the workplace, employers need to invest time and care into encouraging employees to openly speak about mental health issues, and be quick to respond effectively to those concerns and provide the appropriate support where needed. 

Employees need to be aware of where and how they can get any support that they require, meaning a clear framework from employers detailing what is available as part of a wider health and wellbeing strategy is crucial.

Vanessa Sallows is benefits and governance director at Legal & General Workplace Health & Protection. 

This article was provided by Legal & General. 


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