Time to Talk: Breaking Down the Stigma surrounding Mental Health in the Workplace

Whilst there has been increased awareness and discussion surrounding mental health in recent years, and conversations once considered taboo are held more openly than ever, there is still work to be done to ensure that everyone feels that they can freely speak about mental health and can reap the benefits of sharing.

On 1 February 2024, people across the country came together to participate in 'Time to Talk Day'. The annual event, organised by, Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, encourages people to engage in conversations about their mental health and offers an opportunity for individuals to be more open and transparent about their emotions. The theme of this year’s campaign is "What I Really Mean", acknowledging the fact our words are not always an accurate reflection of how we feel inside.

Despite an increased awareness of mental health and its effects, for many, the fear of stigmatisation poses a significant obstacle to open dialogue. Indeed, almost 9 in 10 people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination has had a negative impact on their lives. In the workplace, employees may be particularly hesitant to discuss or disclose mental health struggles with superiors or colleagues, worrying that they will be judged, have their competency questioned, or will not receive support.

Research by the Priory Group revealed that 71% of people would feel worried about telling their employer if they had a mental health condition for fear of getting a negative response. If employees feel unable to engage in these important conversations, the workplace can become a battleground for silent struggles with mental health and, as mental distress often hinders communication and the ability to express oneself, isolation and loneliness can start to fester.

Training and education can support and encourage employers, leaders, and managers to approach and manage mental health in the workplace effectively by raising awareness and providing guidance on how to establish a working environment where people feel safe talking openly about their feelings. A recent survey by MHFA England revealed that a third of managers feel out of their depth supporting their team with mental health concerns. Without guidance, leaders may be uncertain how to support colleagues and a fear of making mistakes, upsetting colleagues, or exacerbating existing mental health issues, can result in important conversations being avoided or shut down.

Fostering effective communication is crucial to breaking down barriers surrounding mental health. Listening is essential- and it does not require having all the answers. Encouraging colleagues, friends, and family members to share their thoughts and feelings is a fundamental step towards making people feel heard and creating a supportive environment where genuine and meaningful conversations can take place.

To create a work environment that facilitates open and honest discussion, employers must prioritise mental health training for their employees. Furthermore, managers and leaders who outwardly promote an inclusive workplace and offer support can help to ensure employees feel supported and comfortable discussing their mental health concerns without fearing judgment or negative consequences.

As part of the "Time to Talk Day" initiative, individuals are encouraged not only to share their experiences but also to encourage others to seek help when needed. Join us in normalising the act of seeking support, and together we can break the stigma and empower each other to prioritise and improve our well-being.

Remember: it is okay to not be okay. If you feel like you are struggling with mental health issues in the workplace, don’t suffer in silence! Speak to your manager, HR team, or whoever you feel comfortable with, and ensure that you get the support you need.


If you’re interested in training that can expand your workforce’s skills and knowledge regarding workplace mental health, The Development Zone offer a range of courses which are aimed at enhancing understanding, awareness and management of mental health in the workplace. Relevant courses include:

  • Anxiety in the Workplace 1- What is Anxiety?
  • Approaching mental health in the workplace
  • Burnout
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Empathy in the Workplace
  • Five Ways to Wellbeing
  • Loneliness
  • Workplace Well-being: Manager’s Guide.

If you are new to the Aviva Development Zone, we offer a 14-day free trial where you can try every feature and every course! Click here to find out more: https://mydevelopment.zone/

About the author

Laura is the Digital Marketing Associate for Searchlight Insurance Training, part of UKGI Learning Solutions. Laura supports our digital design, website and content marketing strategies for Searchlight. 

Laura Roberts UKGI

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