New data reveals Brits would rather talk to their colleagues about relationship issues, money problems and even sex, than broach the topic of mental health.

A survey for Time to Change of 2,000 [1] British workers suggests mental health remains one of the last taboos in the workplace, showing that, despite progress, there is still a lot more work to do in 2018 to combat the stigma of mental health.

When asked to select from a list the topics they felt they could talk openly about with their colleagues:

  • 30% felt comfortable discussing a relationship break-up;
  • 26% money problems
  • 20% dating advice
  • 19% religion
  • 18% sex; while only
  • 13% said mental health, with the topic ranking lowest out of a total of 10 subjects.

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year and yet Time to Change says these figures show that when it comes to employment 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, 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 to.

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 their colleagues. It can be as simple as a text or email to say you are there to talk and to listen - everyone can help create more open, supportive workplaces when it comes to mental health.

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.”

Natalie Hall works for the police force and says while some colleagues have been supportive about her mental health problem, many are not sure how to help. She said: “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. 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. However, when I got a card from my closer colleagues it made all the difference - it’s the simple little reminders that people care and want to help that give you the will to carry on and get better.”

Time to Change works with over 700 employers who have pledged to open up the conversation about mental health at work and ensure staff feel supported to talk about their experiences.

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For more information please contact Ellie Stone, Media Officer at Time to Change at e.stone@time-to-change.org.uk call 0208 215 2389

Notes to Editors

Time to Change
Time to Change is a growing movement of people changing how we all think and act about mental health problems. We are funded by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund. Our campaign is run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and thousands more organisations have joined us to make change happen.

To download conversation starter tips and for more resources, visit: www.time-to-change.org.uk.

[1] All data points are sourced from a survey of 2025 UK workers conducted for Time to Change by Censuswide from 28th July 2017 – 31st July 2017