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Mental Health in Business: How Do We Talk More?

One in four of us is affected every year with common mental health issues that can include stress, anxiety and depression. Despite these figures, there's still a disappointing culture of silence within businesses when it comes to mental health.

In part one of our Mental Health in Business series, we examine the reasons for this pervasive silence and what organisations and employees can do to provide a safe space where any issues can be discussed openly.

So, why the silence?

There are a variety of reasons why conversations around mental health fail to make the agenda at work. According to a study by Mind, 1 in 5 people fear that disclosing stress would put them first in line for redundancy, suggesting a fear that mental health conditions might be seen as a weakness. This has a knock-on effect with unresolved issues potentially developing into ill health, absence, disengagement and resentment. In turn, employers can remain ignorant and fail to learn the correct way to broach the subject.

With this in mind, it's vital that all companies recognise mental health as an issue that will affect their business and employees. In addition, workers who know how to ask for support and in-turn support their colleagues can make a huge difference to someone's life.

What can employers do?

Organisations are only as strong as their people. It's up to employers to ensure workers feel equipped to start the conversation. Publicising an open and accepting approach to mental health and reinforcing that support is available will help staff feel that mental health is a priority.

Mind suggests that employers conduct anonymous staff satisfaction surveys to gauge the mental wellbeing of the workforce. Here are some example questions they suggest:

  • Do you think that work has an impact on your mental wellbeing?
  • Do you think that your mental wellbeing has an impact on your ability to do your work?
  • Have you noticed work having an effect on your colleagues' mental wellbeing?
  • Are you affected by your colleagues' mental health?
  • Do you know how your organisation manages workplace mental wellbeing?
  • Are you aware of any support your organisation offers to staff?
  • Would you know where to access mental wellbeing services outside your organisation?
  • Do you feel supported by your manager and colleagues?
  • Are the responsibilities and expectations of your work clearly communicated to you?
  • Is there anything else your organisation could do to improve your mental wellbeing?
It can be worth using an external company to carry out such a survey and objectively analyse the results. Employers can then identify any areas of improvement when it comes to supporting and encouraging mental health discussion.

Advice for employees.

Concerns about job security and how you'll be perceived by managers and colleagues are common when it comes to opening up about mental health issues. However, it's worth remembering that the thought of what the response will be is often worse than the reality. Therefore, it's better to address any concerns and explore opportunities for support.

If you're worried about approaching your employer for the first time to discuss your mental health, consider:
  • Who you want to share this information with
  • Finding a good time to talk when you have their full attention
  • How much you're comfortable with sharing
  • The impact that your mental health is having on your work
  • What support you need to continue doing your job
S.TWO champions businesses that take a proactive approach to mental health wellbeing. To demonstrate our commitment, we've signed a pledge with Santus to create an open environment where mental health is supported, and people can bring their full selves to work.

Stay tuned to the S.TWO blog for the next instalment of our Mental Health in Business series where we'll be looking at how employers can support their staff, as well as what workers can do to support themselves and each other.