Last Wednesday was World Mental Health day, and high-profile people from Prince Harry to Glen Close and Lady Gaga came forward to talk about their experiences. It definitely feels like there’s a conversation going on out there, and awareness is building about how widespread mental health issues really are.
This is confirmed by research released by Accenture this week, which shows that 87% of people employed in the UK believe that there is greater awareness about mental health. The research, conducted by Loudhouse, also revealed that 82% think we are more willing to talk openly about mental health issues than they were a few years ago.
But in the workplace, the old taboos persist. Just one in five said they would be open with colleagues about mental health issues, and only a quarter had heard a colleague discussing mental health. So while the celebs have us thinking about mental health, we’re still not talking to each other about it. We’re open with colleagues about all sorts of personal topics, we’re even getting better at talking about bereavement. But mention mental health challenges, and get ready for colleagues shuffling around uncomfortably. Awkward.
In the study, just 1 in 10 had heard a senior leader talk about being personally affected by mental illness. Talking about mental health takes courage. But it also takes courage to engage with people who raise topics that make us feel uncomfortable. We need to get a lot better at listening if we want colleagues to be more open about mental health at work.