See Me is urging employers to improve workplace culture ahead of World Mental Health Day.
Almost a quarter (24%) of Scots don’t feel comfortable talking about mental health at work, a survey has revealed.
The poll, for mental health programme See Me, also found that more than one in ten (11 per cent) would not recommend someone for a job if they had a mental health problem, while less than half (48 per cent) think that talking dismissively about mental health problems at work is definitely discriminatory.
See Me is now calling on employers to create cultures where workers feel confident to speak about their mental health.
Ahead of World Mental Health Day on Thursday, the organisation said changing outdated attitudes and behaviours is vital to ensure people are not treated unfairly at work, and can be an important part of suicide prevention.
See Me highlighted six Scottish employers who are making a positive difference to tackle mental health discrimination.
ScotRail, Police Scotland North Division, Glasgow City Council, Bernardo’s Scotland, solicitors Burness Paull and energy support providers EnerMech have all signed up to See Me’s workplace programme to improve mental health support in their organisations.
They will join employers like the DWP in Glasgow, who signed up after one of their managers, Gary Macdonald, wanted to show that mental health problems can affect anyone. Mr Macdonald, a health and wellbeing manager, volunteered with See Me after struggling with his own mental health, and wanted to make a difference in his workplace.
He has since gone on to start his own men’s peer support group to prevent suicides in Glasgow, and says being able to speak freely at work is key.
He said: “From my experience I know it can be hard to talk in work, it’s not always easy to know who to open up to. Work can also be competitive and you don’t want people to think you’re not coping.
“The worst case is that someone struggling with their mental health could consider suicide. To help stop that then we all need to feel comfortable talking.
“It all starts with eradicating the stigma. People think they can’t mention suicide, that it’s a terrifying thing to mention. But breaking down the stigma and encouraging people to talk, in a helpful, caring and supportive way, can make a difference.”
Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said the charity was engaging with its staff across the country to make all aspects of their working life as positive as possible.
He added: “The work that Barnardo’s Scotland undertakes with children, young people and families can be emotionally draining.
“It is absolutely vital therefore that our staff feel confident that they are working in an emotionally healthy workplace where mental health is talked about openly.”
Wendy Halliday, See Me director, said: “These stats show that not enough people feel comfortable talking about mental health at work, which can lead to people feeling like they have nowhere to go if they’re struggling.
“Focusing on suicide this World Mental Health day give us all the opportunity to start conversations that could save lives.
“It’s important that in all areas of our lives we are able to say we’re not okay, especially in work. We’re delighted to see these major employers sign up, and take action today, to show that mental health discrimination cannot continue and create supportive cultures where people can ask for help.
“We would encourage everyone to do something today to let someone know they’re not alone if they’re struggling.”