Start a conversation: Time to Talk Day 2017

Today is Time to Talk Day and Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director, Business in the Community encourages all employers to open up the conversation around mental health.


Time to Talk image

This year, Time to Talk Day (which falls on 2nd February in 2017) is focussing on men’s mental health. We know from previous research that for men, poor mental health is more likely to be driven by high-pressure workplaces and burnout. In fact, 83% of men who say stress interferes with their work feel like it also carries over to their personal life, compared to 72% of women. Men are more likely to recognise symptoms at ‘crisis point’ than women, and are also less likely to seek support from friends, relatives or professional services.

Our Mental Health at Work 2016 report also found that only 47% of men felt comfortable talking about mental health in the workplace, and just 9% had raised their symptoms of poor mental health with their line manager (compared to 54% and 13% respectively for women). There are also gaps between male and female managers’ experience; just 30% of male managers have been approached by an employee wanting to talk about a mental health problem, but this rises to 44% for female managers. All this suggests that men are struggling to talk about mental health in the workplace, and this could significantly impact their lives both inside and outside the workplace.

Tragically, there is also a higher rate of suicide amongst men. The male suicide rate is three times higher than females, and suicide is now the leading cause of death for men under 50. The most at-risk group is middle-aged men in lower socio-economic groups, and suicide rates are more prevalent in male-dominated sectors such as manual work and the military.

Employers have a key role to play in reducing suicide rates – not only by creating environments where employees can talk openly about their feelings and have access to the right support, but also by providing managers with appropriate training around mental health and suicide prevention. Additionally, there should also be an approach in place to ensure employees receive appropriate care and support in the event of a colleague completing suicide. Business in the Community is currently developing suicide prevention and postvention toolkits for employers which will set out how employers can develop policies around this sensitive issue.

With many people feeling unable to talk about mental health at work, it may manifest itself as a physical issue, such as musculoskeletal (MSK) problems. It’s estimated that 31 million working days a year are lost due to these problems, representing a significant impact on employers. A key part of addressing this is communication; many employees may hide their MSK issues, but encouraging them to open up about what they are experiencing physically can, in turn, lead to conversations about other issues which may be impacting their health.

This Time to Talk Day, we’re calling on employers to open up discussion around mental health in the workplace on Time to Talk Day for all their employees – male and female – by encouraging everyone to take five minutes to have a conversation with their colleagues. We would also encourage them to sign up to the Time to Change employers’ pledge and invest in mental health training for all employees. These steps are vital if the culture of silence that surrounds mental health is to end.