Here’s what I know: almost 1 in 5 employers still aren’t comfortable discussing mental health

  • Occupational Health
Two people chatting over video call
Peter Done

Peter Done, Group Managing Director and Founder

(Last updated )

What does mental health mean for you?

It’s an important question to ask yourself when employers are saying there’s a growing number of people in their workforce experiencing mental health issues.

To explore this issue further, Peninsula recently carried out a survey to find out how employers really feel about mental health in the workplace. And we found that while most employers said they would be happy to discuss mental health issues, nearly 1 in 5 didn’t feel very comfortable with it.

Why? Well, we know why. It’s the same reason why mental health is all over the media. Why we hear tragic stories about it every day. Why we keep quiet about our own problems.

Fear. Stigma. Taboo.

We constantly spread the message that “we need to talk”. And more people are, even at work - which is good. But if we say we’re not that comfortable with it, the message we’re really sending is “let’s not talk”.  

Not because we don’t want to but because many of us just don’t know how. And that may come down to a lack of experience and lack of understanding, which would reduce anyone’s confidence.

However, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue every year. And 1 in 6 will report having anxiety and depression in any given week in England. So, it’s highly likely you employ someone who experiences a mental health issue or even several people who do.

That’s why we need to break the stigma and learn how to be comfortable opening up conversations about mental health at work. It means stepping away from the traditional mentality of “leaving your personal business at home”. Because when your employee’s personal business affects work, it becomes your business.

Being able to connect with your employees and be real with them makes you a good leader. And you can’t connect if you don’t communicate.

If you don’t feel confident doing that, it might be good to look into mental health first aid training. This will help you learn how to spot signs that your employee may be dealing with a mental health issue and how to manage that conversation with them. Mental health experts will deliver this training, so it gives you the peace of mind of knowing you’re doing everything by the book.

You can offer this training to employees, line managers and anyone in your business. It’s how you make sure your entire workplace is on the same page when it comes to mental health.

You could also consider:

  • offering mental health days on top of holiday entitlements – to show that you recognise and appreciate that your staff may need additional time off to look after their mental wellbeing
  • setting up an employee assistance programme (EAP) – this gives your staff access to expert third-party support, so they can get free counselling and advice from wellbeing professionals 
  • organising social activities outside of work – this encourages team bonding and may help to prevent staff from feeling isolated if they have more opportunities to connect with colleagues outside of work
  • sharing information and resources with employees about mental health – sharing information about mental health organisations and self-help resources can empower your employees by helping them to regain control of their mental health
  • providing quiet spaces for staff if they need to take a breather – a workplace environment can naturally be hectic which may be overstimulating for some people, so it may be a case of being mindful of this and offering quiet spaces for staff to dip out if they need to

And if you need any further advice on how to support mental health in your workplace, give us a call on 0800 029 4389 and we’d be happy to help.

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