World Mental Health Day is a chance for us all to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives

Andrew Berrie
Andrew Berrie

Head of Workplace Wellbeing, Mind

In 2017, there were 5821 suicides in the UK. In England, this was a person dying by suicide every 107 minutes.

In a workplace context, within a company of 1000 workers, one worker will die by suicide every ten years. For every worker that takes their life, another 10 – 20 will make a suicide attempt.

World Mental Health Day, on Thursday 10 October, presents an opportunity for all of us to raise awareness of mental health issues and advocate against social stigma.

The theme of this year’s event is suicide and suicide prevention, making the day an opportune moment to address this issue, set out the importance of mental health to your organisation with your staff and to underpin this commitment with a range of activities to support learning on the subject.

A young man suffering from depression sits by a window wondering how to get through the day ahead

Why is it important to mark World Mental Health Day in the workplace?

  • One in six British workers are affected by mental health problems like anxiety, depression and stress every year.
  • Around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition
  • 9 out of 10 people who experience mental health problems say they face stigma and discrimination and 54% percent of people say they are impacted most by this stigma in their place of work
  • As a result, 300 thousand people with long-term mental health problems leave their jobs each year
  • Less than half of employees say they would feel able to talk openly with their line manager if they were suffering from stress and 95% of employees will cite an alternative reason to stress when calling in sick

World Mental Health Day is a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives. Marking such key dates demonstrates a clear acknowledgement of the fact that we all have mental health and the impact our mental health has on work and vice-versa. Through educational activities, organisations can look to improve employee understanding of mental health and mental health problems – the first steps to addressing stigma and developing a workplace culture where employees feel they can be open and honest about their mental health.

One in five adults experience suicidal feelings at some point in their lives

With respect to this year’s World Mental Health Day theme, recent statistics show that only 27% of people who died by suicide between 2005 and 2015 had been in contact with mental health services in the year before they died. These statistics highlight that talking about suicide is still highly stigmatised.

One in five adults experience suicidal feelings at some point in their lives and with a third of our lives spent at work, it is highly likely that there will be people struggling to cope in the workplace and possibly trying to hide it.

Talking about suicide and understanding it better is necessary to help prevent further suicides in the UK. By opening up conversations about mental health and fostering a culture in which employees feel they can seek support when they are struggling, employers can play an integral role in directing their staff to appropriate support services when they need it.

A group therapy session takes place.
We can ensure that staff are supported before they reach crisis

A death by suicide is also, often, the result of an accumulating, complex set of circumstances or experiences in a person’s life, which can include their work-life. Where an employee feels comfortable openly discussing their mental health with their line manager, organisations can look to address any workplace factors that might be contributing to their current feelings.

Understanding the different experiences of other people’s mental health can be difficult. Everyone’s experiences are different. Time to Change’s Champions Storybook brings together fifteen open and honest accounts of living with mental health problems – what this meant practically and the broader impact this had on their lives. These stories can help to provide an insight into the various ways in which your staff might be experiencing poor mental health.

Time to Change activity pack
There are lots of ways you can get your organisation involved in World Mental Health Day. Our World Mental Health Day Workplace Activity Pack is full of tips, ideas and resources to help your organisation get involved and raise understanding of suicide and the stigma that surrounds suicide.

Whether you’ve got a whole day to commit to your event or just 10 minutes, we’ve a range of both group and individual activities that you can undertake. Within our Activity Pack, you’ll also find links to our downloadable Ask Twice campaign materials.

With the average person saying that they are fine 14 times a day and 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem each year – sometimes a colleague might say he is fine when he’s not. The Ask Twice campaign encourages everyone to simply ask twice; to demonstrate compassion and show that they have time to invest in listening and supporting a friend.

By creating a workplace culture in which employees feel they can be open and honest about their mental health we can ensure that staff are supported before they reach crisis.

These bright and visual resources are perfect for putting up in staff rooms, common areas – even the back of toilet room doors! Whilst our YouTube videos are easy to share on internal social channels, intranet pages and in staff newsletters.

We’re always inspired by the creativity of our Time to Change Employee Champions and last year saw hundreds of Champions host World Mental Health Day activities within their organisations. Here are just a few examples of the activities they delivered:

  • A Wellbeing Fair with a number of information stalls hosted by Time to Change Employee Champions, Occupational Health, the organisation’s EAP provider and the Samaritans.
  • Launch of an internal This is Me​This is Me Web page This is Me is a business-led campaign to support organisations, and their employees, to talk about mental health. It encourages people with experience of a mental health problem, whether their own or of a loved one, to share their stories.Free By: The Lord Mayor’s Appeal View resource video campaign featuring staff from across the organisation’s teams and management.
  • An art therapy session in which staff were encouraged to paint a wooden cut out of a brain to express different perceptions of good/poor mental health and mental health stigma as a means by which to explore the topic.
  • Tea and talk events for staff to share their personal experiences of mental health.
  • Erection of a pledge wall for the week, where staff were encouraged to post personal commitments to how they would change the way they think and act about mental health in and outside of the workplace
  • Lunch and learn events hosted by external speakers on the importance of managing and supporting your mental health
  • Launch of a Wellbeing Challenge to promote the 5 Ways of Wellbeing​5 steps to mental wellbeing Website Evidence suggests there are 5 steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing. If you give them a try, you may feel happier and more positive.Free By: NHS View resource promoting internal initiatives such as book clubs and cycle to work schemes.
About this website

Your guide to mental health at work

Whether you work with 10 people, 10,000 people or just yourself, paying attention to mental health in the workplace has never been more important.

Find out more

The Mental Health at Work website will close on 30 June 2024.

If there any of our toolkits, stories and resources that you may want to refer to later, we recommend you download them now.

The Mental Health at Work Commitment, the Interactive Guide and some key supporting content will move to Mind’s website after this date.

Find out more in our FAQs