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Talking of Mental Health

There’s good news and bad news in Accenture’s recent report on mental health in the workplace. The bad news first: the sheer scale of the problem is even larger than we had previously thought. Two-thirds of UK workers have reported personal experience of mental health challenges and 85 per cent say that someone close to them has. “We’re used to hearing that one in four people experience mental health challenges,” said Barbara Harvey, mental health lead for Accenture’s business in the UK, “yet our research shows that the number of people affected is in fact far higher.” The closer we look at the problem of mental health, the larger it appears.

But there is good news too. It seems that the taboo around talking about mental health is loosening its grip: 82 per cent of those surveyed said they were more willing to speak openly about mental health issues now than they were just a few years ago. Thanks to a variety of campaigns, and the efforts of many individuals, people are increasingly ready to talk about their mental health.

  Kind of. You see, the survey reports some hesitations. Of those who had faced a personal mental health crisis, the majority (61 per cent) had not spoken to anyone about their issue. So, the taboo around talking seems to be disappearing, but people are still struggling to open up.

As a culture, it seems, we’ve got much better at talking about how we ought to talk about mental health, but we’re still struggling to—well—talk about mental health. Put another way, most of us now know that it’s OK to talk, but we’re still not sure what to say. (Or, crucially, how to listen.)

Our friend Geoff McDonald, co-founder of Minds@Work, can help us here. And if you haven’t already, then do make sure to watch his TED Talk; Geoff speaks openly about his own mental health and thoughtfully about others’. In his talk, he proposes two concrete steps for improving mental health in the workplace. Firstly, he tells us, “we need influential people to tell their stories.” And, secondly, “we need leaders to invest in training everybody in mental health.”

At Boxspring, we believe we can be a part of this next step. The stigma around mental health is being eradicated, and now we want to help people to know what to say; how to start those conversations; how to listen properly and speak kindly. We’re ready to talk, now it’s time to figure out what to say.

Alex Hill