It’s time to challenge workplace stigma about mental health and to make it easier for those who need help to feel comfortable asking for it.
Looking after the wellbeing of employees benefits everyone – no matter your role, seniority, and whether you have a mental health problem, or not.
Working with employers over the past six years means we have a good indication of what works to ensure a mentally healthy workplace. Those elements are incorporated into the Time to Change employer pledge, which gives organisations the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to opening up the conversation about mental health. More than 500 organisations have made that commitment.
There are multiple things employers can do to create a more open working environment. Senior leaders have a pivotal role to play in leading by example – being open about their own mental health experiences sends the strong message that this isn’t a sign of weakness and doesn’t limit your ambition or aspiration. Employees at all levels talking honestly and openly about their experiences has contributed hugely to a cultural shift in how we think about the topic.
We’ve made a conscious effort in recent years to target male-dominated workplaces, such as construction. Our research shows that men still don’t consider mental health relevant to them. Men try to be self-sufficient, keeping problems to themselves. But mental health problems don’t discriminate – they can affect anyone.
Many of the biggest UK construction firms have signed our pledge, and they tell us that for them it has been crucial to have people “on the ground” in the form of employee champions who challenge workplace stigma, normalise conversations about mental health and encourage those who need help to feel comfortable asking for it.
With the right support from those around them, people with mental health problems can recover and have equal opportunities in all areas of life – including work.
Sue Baker is director of Time to Change, the anti-stigma Movement run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.
This piece was first seen on ‘The Guardian’ 11 May 2017