The topic of good mental health and how to get it, is never far from the front pages these days, and rightly so.

For too long the attitude of ‘just grin and bear it’ has prevailed and the consequence is that things only come to light when it’s too late. The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day 2017 is Mental health in the workplace, and as we spend a good part of our lives there, it’s vital that we display sympathy and compassion to those who need it.

So, how “mentally friendly” are we at work? Sadly, not so much! A new survey has revealed that millions of us stay clear of discussing mental health issues with our colleagues for fear of jeopardising our careers.

The study by Mental Health Foundation sampled 2,000 employees and in spite of increased publicity of the need to treat mental health issues sympathetically in recent years, there are still instances where mental health issues are spoken about in a derogatory way, with one in five of those surveyed witnessing this scenario.

Rather than feel confident about requesting time off for a mental health reason, half of those surveyed would invent a physical cause for the absence. But perhaps the most galling stat was that “11 per cent of the sample had themselves been victims of abuse at work as a direct result of a mental health issue.”

A spokesperson for the charity said:

“Despite growing awareness, there are sadly still too many people who don’t feel safe talking about their mental health at work.

“We are asking people to talk about mental health, but this must be matched with an ability to listen compassionately and act appropriately.

“We still hear examples of mental ill-health being used as a form of casual insult. This creates a culture where people don’t feel able to talk about their mental health at work or reach out for support when they need it.”

Earlier this year, an email went viral of one boss’s response to his employee taking a mental health day off. His complete understanding and support of his employee was exactly what you’d hope for and no doubt would go a long way to reassuring his employee of her value and the importance of looking after her mental health. It looks like we’re lagging behind here in the UK as 40 per cent of workers felt they couldn’t be completely candid about their mental health.

The truth is that people living with mental health problems contribute 225bn to the economy each year and employers need to wake up to the fact that this contribution will be lost if these employees are not protected.

“Healthy workplaces recognise the contribution of employees living with mental health problems and support open disclosure. A culture that must be lead from the very top.”

Don’t be an unsympathetic colleague, learn more about mental health problems and how you can support a colleague going through a tough time. Download How to support mental health at work .

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