That’s according to a new survey from Time to Change, which polled 2,000 British workers and discovered that mental health remains one of the last taboos in the workplace.
Time to Change is now urging the public to take the opportunity to check in with their colleagues in the lead up to, and during, the festive period.
Natalie Hall works for the police force and has depression. She said that while some colleagues have been supportive about her mental health problem, many are not sure how to help.
“Christmas is a particularly difficult time, I don’t feel comfortable in social situations including the office Christmas party, and there’s constant talk of it,” she said. “I can’t drink due to medication and I get incredibly anxious in large groups and in bars.
“I was very unwell with depression last year, to the point where I no longer wanted to live, but even then I was reluctant to say anything to my colleagues. I would often be visibly distressed, yet most people would look the other way. I felt very alone and like nobody cared.”
When survey participants were asked to select from a list of topics they felt they could talk openly about with their colleagues:
:: 30% felt comfortable discussing a relationship break-up
:: 26% felt comfortable discussing money problems
:: 20% felt comfortable discussing dating advice
:: 19% felt comfortable talking about religion
:: 18% felt comfortable talking about sex
:: 13% felt comfortable discussing mental health, with the topic ranking lowest out of a total of 10 subjects.
But while people still feel uncomfortable talking about their own mental health, the survey shows they do want to support others. Over half said they would support a colleague if they noticed they were struggling with their mental health. However, 39% of these people said they wouldn’t know how.
With the Christmas party season upon us, when many will be spending more time socialising with their co-workers, Time to Change, which is led by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, is encouraging everyone to take the opportunity to check in with colleagues - whether that’s via text or email, or simply saying you are there to talk and listen.
Natalie said receiving a card from one of her colleagues “made all the difference” when she was in a dark place. “It’s the simple little reminders that people care and want to help that give you the will to carry on and get better,” she added.
Sue Baker OBE, director of Time to Change, said: “During the Christmas party season we’ll be around our colleagues more than usual. This year, we want people to push the conversation beyond what went on at the office party and find out how their colleagues are really doing.
“Christmas is branded the most wonderful time of the year but it can be challenging and stressful for those of us struggling with mental health problems or with life stresses. The pressure to spend money, socialise and ‘have fun’ can leave people feeling more isolated than ever, especially if we feel there’s no-one to turn to.
“So let’s add talking about mental health into the usual mix of workplace conversations about relationships, money and even sex - it could make all the difference to those of us who could be struggling this Christmas.”