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Is it still taboo to talk about it?

View profile for Stephen Gerring
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It's never easy telling someone about your mental health. It's never easy trying to explain the heavy feeling in your chest, the lack of motivation you have, the heavy head and whirlwind of sad thoughts constantly sitting in the back of your head. 

It’s an illness that has been differentiated from a physical one, such as heart disease, epilepsy and asthma. Mental illness has a cemented stigma attached to it within society. It's a stigma that has prevented open talk, education, and support.

The attitudes within our society put physical illness above a mental illness; it's seen as more acceptable, it gains more support, sympathy and sensitivity from a variety of people. But most of all it's an illness that allows for the tools of recovery, with easily accessible support and treatments, at a faster and higher rate.

It's a common opinion that if your illness is physical and in some cases visible then it is real and an unfortunate but a real and merited situation. However, with mental illness, due to the lack of understanding or the inability to ‘rationalise’ the illness without visible facts, it often creates a label of ‘abnormality’ of a person, simply due to ignorance.

So, why if our illness occurs in mind is it regarded as somewhat of a taboo to discuss and vocalise, whatever the aim of conversation? Is it simply due to people's perception of a physical illness being real and a mental illness not? Or is it due to the historic representation of the ‘mentally insane’? It's a question that can never be answered fully, but I, personally, can only assume that the miseducation of the past and present, has attached a label of abnormality to the illness.

Work it out

The stigma attached to mental health is still prevalent in the workplace with 56% of Employers* stating that they would be reluctant to recruit an individual with a mental health condition into their workplace due to attitudes from co-workers. This is a 5% increase from the survey results from 2009.

In 2017, 52% of businesses surveyed had a mental health policy, up 30% on 2009. Formal policies on mental health are more prevalent in larger businesses than small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). For example, 76% of businesses with over 250 employees have formal stress/mental health policies, compared to 27% of those with 50 employees or fewer.

A mental health policy sets out a company’s commitment to promoting positive mental health and provides a framework to encourage proper treatment which complies with an employer’s legal obligations. With a policy in place, employees are also more likely to feel comfortable discussing any mental health issues with managers. Those businesses not acknowledging the issue run the risk of losing a valuable member of the team when the development and implementation of a policy is neither complicated nor costly.

OutsetUK can provide assistance with the development of a workplace mental health policy, the provision of mental health first aid training and support your managers with the management of mental health in the workplace.

If you would like advice in relation to mental health policies or training, please get in touch for a friendly chat today. Call 01622 759 900 or email

*Shaw Trust Mental Health at Work Survey 2017