To talk about any aspect of our personal lives in the workplace requires us to feel secure and accepted. In short: the opposite of how mental illness can make us feelby Mark Brown / December 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
The idea that we might be our own authentic self at work is one that has its attractions and its own particular horrors. We might like the idea of bringing our whole self to work when our whole self feels comfortable, competent and fulfilled—but it’s a different proposition when that self is ailing, and where challenges to our mental health may unbalance our equilibrium.
A survey of 2000 British workers carried out for mental health anti stigma campaign Time to Change released this week found that only 13 per cent of those polled felt they could talk openly with their colleagues about mental health.
Research published in 2016 by The Mental Health Foundation, Oxford University and Insurance Company Unum found that people had practical reasons for avoiding being open about their mental health at work.
Says Chris O’Sullivan, Head of Workplace Mental Health at The Mental Health Foundation:
“The most commonly cited negative reason was fear of discrimination (46 per cent)—with other reasons such as feeling ashamed to do so (41 per cent), because previous experience of disclosure was negative (27 per cent) and because I’d be unable to continue in role (4 per cent) also cited.”
“45 per cent of respondents in our research indicated that it was none of their employers business, and 14 per cent that it was in the past and no longer relevant. 25 per cent said that they hadn’t disclosed because there wasn’t a clear mechanism for doing so.”
What is interesting is that even though very few of the workers surveyed for Time to Change would choose to discuss their mental health with colleagues at work, very few would discuss other personal topics, either.
30 per cent felt comfortable discussing a relationship break-up; 26 per cent discussing money problems; 20 per cent discussing dating advice, 19 per cent talking to colleagues about religion;18 per cent sex; while only 13 per cent said they’d talk about their mental health, with the topic ranking lowest out of a total of 10 subjects.
This suggests the people of the UK are still keen on maintaining a division between work and personal life despite decades of attempts to erode this line. Work for many is not something into which you throw…