Let's Add Mental Health Into The Conversations We Have With Colleagues

The pressure to spend money, socialise and ‘have fun’ can leave people feeling more isolated than ever
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As we enter the last working week before Christmas, office talk turns to our plans for the holidays, shopping lists, or what so and so got up to at the Christmas party. Yet do we know how our colleagues are really doing?

We asked 2,000 British workers to select from a list the topics they felt they could speak openly about with colleagues. The results revealed we’d sooner talk sex, money problems or relationships than broach the topic of mental health at work.

In fact, mental health came very bottom of the pile, suggesting it is the last taboo of the workplace.

  • 30% felt comfortable discussing a relationship break-up;
  • 26% money problems
  • 20% dating advice
  • 19% religion
  • 18% sex; while only
  • 13% said mental health

Since Time to Change began in 2007, we have changed millions of attitudes towards mental health, and built a diverse social movement with people feeling more empowered than ever to tackle discrimination. This includes over 700 employers who have pledged to create a more open workplace.

Yet these figures reveal that, despite progress, there is more work to be done. The vast majority of people still feel unable to speak openly about their mental health with their line managers and even their close colleagues.

Encouragingly though, while people still feel uncomfortable talking about their own mental health, our 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 to.

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 our 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.

A great place to start is Time to Talk Day on Thursday 1 February 2018, which is a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives.