New research finds that while we have made great strides in destigmatising mental health, there are still barriers to overcome

In recent years, coverage surrounding mental health has increased and while the majority (97%) of business leaders believe this has helped destigmatise the topic, employees still feel reluctant talking to their employers about it.

According to Legal & General’s Red Report, almost half (48%) of those surveyed revealed they didn’t feel their employees would confide in a colleague if they were struggling with their mental-wellbeing.

The findings of the report were the outcome of Legal & General’s ‘Not A Red Card’ mental health forum. Attendees were comprised of business leaders, mental health experts and sports personalities.

Five key themes around mental health support in the workplace emerged from the event:

• A lack of education and understanding around mental health problems

• The current portrayal and narrative surrounding mental health

• The company’s overall culture

• Poor availability of resources to help address mental health

• The lack of role models within business

Nigel Wilson, CEO, Legal & General said “Understanding the barriers to discussing mental health in the workplace is the key to improving the quality and quantity of these conversations. Our Not a Red Card campaign launched last May, used the power of sport and iconic sports people to tackle the issue head on, and we were able to engage with 3.5million people on social media alone. Our Red report is the next step to identify what is discouraging employees from being open and honest about mental health. I firmly believe that business leaders can learn a lot from talking to each other more about mental health and also by engaging across different sectors. Our sports stars who have spoken so bravely and openly on this topic, reinforce the fact that mental health should be given exactly the same time and care as physical health.”

It is in the best interest of employers to address the barriers surrounding mental health in the workplace. The Government commissioned report, Thriving at Work, found that the annual cost of mental health issues to employers is between £33bn and £42bn.

Both reports highlight the vital role employers need to play to destigmatise mental health and create a culture of inclusivity.

85% of attendees at the L&G event did acknowledge that there has been an improvement over the past five years with strides being taken to open the dialogue surrounding mental health. The company has made three pledges to its own employees to show their commitment to improving wellbeing.

They have begun incentivising openness by encouraging colleagues to discuss these issues and promote active listening to create an environment of mutual support within the company. Legal & General will also be providing training for employees to help spot and deal with signs of mental distress and will be actively developing a positive narrative around mental health, to be communicated with colleagues all around the world.

Lord Dennis Stevenson CBE, co-author of the Government’s Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers report, comments “We know that mental health doesn’t discriminate by seniority or sector and we also know that talking about it helps. Campaigns like the Not a Red Card Offence are doing vital work to tackle the stigma by encouraging people to have honest and open discussions at work. The Red Report is another great example of Legal & General committing to help bridge the gap between employers and employees. I very much hope that other employers whether for profit or not for profit will follow the example that Legal & General is setting.”