Michelle Terry: Employers can do more to tackle the stigma of discussing mental health

Over the course of the last two years, the global Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has had a massive impact on every aspect of our lives, including the way we work. Long-term disruption to normal routines, and challenges caused by the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic itself, has left many of us feeling exhausted, uncertain, anxious, or depressed.

As restrictions lift in the UK, our working lives are changing yet again. Many of us are facing a return to the workplace after long periods of working from home, for example. With that comes even more uncertainty and that will undoubtedly have an impact on employees’ mental wellbeing.

Although awareness of the importance of mental health is increasing, we are still living in a society where people feel they may face discrimination if they admit to mental health challenges, and this can prevent them from getting the help that they need.

Through Movember’s work in mental health, we know that men can be particularly reluctant to talk openly about problems for fear of the negative impact that it might have on their career. Prior to the pandemic in 2019, Ipsos Mori research revealed that up to one in four, or 27%, of British men believed their job would be at risk if they discussed their mental health at work.

We need to find more effective ways of tackling that stigma so that employees are not discouraged from asking for help or taking advantage of support provided by their employer, such as employee assistance programme schemes or other wellbeing resources.

In the workplace, this can start with leaders encouraging conversations about the tough stuff and reminding staff that they won’t be penalised and will be supported if they are struggling.

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In addition, equipping staff with active listening skills to enable them to have conversations about mental health is vital. Movember produces free digital resources such as Movember Conversations which give guidance on how to have some of those tough conversations.

Michelle Terry is (chief executive officer CEO) of men’s health charity Movember