How To Talk About Mental Health

Mental health conversations are starting to find a more normalised position within work discussions. This has been developing for some time but was accelerated by the pandemic when many experienced a sense of isolation and anxiety at not appearing productive or visible online, causing many to overwork themselves and cause stress, burnout, depression and anxiety to impact their lives. With managers more aware of the pressures of remote working, now is could be a great time to initiate a discussion about your mental health and what additional support or flexibility you may need.


However, we understand that it’s not as simple as that. Mental health carries a long-standing stigma, unfortunately, that’s only just beginning to be broken down. Yet many still feel that talking about mental health is more akin to ‘admitting weakness’ when objectively, mental health is similar to physical health; something that needs to be worked on, maintained and managed.

Mental health at work statistics you should know

According to the Champion Health, more people noticed an impact on their mental health in 2021 and:

  • 58% of individuals experienced stress at work
  • 63% of individuals experienced at least mild symptoms of anxiety
  • 58% of individuals experienced at least mild symptoms of depression

And Mental Health Midlands records that:

• Only 13% of employees would be comfortable discussing a mental health issue in the workplace (compared to 19% who said they’d be comfortable talking about religion – an incredibly contentious subject – and 30% who said they’d be more comfortable talking about a break up)

The importance of your mental health in the workplace


Statista records that there were approximately 30.9 million people employed in the United Kingdom in the three months to June 2021. This means that the fact of the matter is the majority of adults in the UK spend a lot of their time in some form of employment. While not all jobs are typical 9-5s, most adults will spend more of their time at work than outside of work during the week. This simple fact alone is why mental health at work is important; if work puts undue pressure on your mental health, then it’s only ever going to exacerbate it if you don’t find a way to ease or treat the cause and symptoms.


It may be tempting to give up and walk away from your role, however employers are starting to recognise the commercial impact ignoring or not supporting employee mental health can have on their organisation. Mental health is the biggest cause of sickness absence and cost employers up to £42 billion last year alone. It’s in your employer’s best interest to support mental health in the workplace, so speaking to them ought to be a beneficial exercise for both parties.

Depression and anxiety at work: Your rights in the UK


Aside from the commercial aspect – and not to say there’s no genuine compassionate side too – employers also have a legal obligation and duty of care to support their employees’ mental health and failure to do so can be deemed as unfair dismissal under UK employment law. Legally, depression can be viewed as a form of disability, which means any form of intolerance can be deemed a discriminatory act making them liable.

How to approach your manager about mental health


Legally, you are not obliged to disclose any mental health information to your employer. However, it’s in both yours and your employer’s best interest to be open about mental health challenges that are affecting your work or life.


We’ve put together some top tips to speak with your manager about getting more support or flexibility to manage your role and responsibilities:

  • Plan what you’re going to disclose and how this is impacting your work


We all respond better to tangible information, facts and examples. You don’t have to go into great detail about what you’re going through, but you should aim to be as honest as possible about the impact anxiety, stress or depression are having on your work.


  •  Bring solutions to the discussion

Be it flexible working, mental health days or better wellbeing support in the office, having a solution to hand will take a lot of the pressure off your manager and employer.

  • Make it an ongoing conversation

Give your manager breathing space to talk about the situation from their own or the company’s perspective and come to an agreement on the best course of action.

  • Pick your moment

A discussion about a sensitive topic like mental health is best left to a moment when there is a normal amount of work on, not when things are hectic and deadlines are pressing. When everyone, your manager included, is working really hard to keep to deadlines and KPIs, conversations about an individual’s stress will be harder to deal with compassionately and objectively.

How can Barclay Simpson help?


Mental health is a complicated topic in the workplace. If you feel you may benefit from a new role entirely in internal or IT audit, financial services, law, risk, compliance or cyber security then check out our jobs page which has some of the most exciting opportunities available.


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