Stigma | 

Majority believe that admitting to mental health issue could impact on their job

'We fear what we don’t know and therefore avoid dealing with issues that might be taboo or ‘too complicated’

The See Change team: Emma Mulligan, Rachel Nulty, Barbara Brennan, Shauna O’Connor and Emma Halvey

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

A massive majority of people have said they feel that admitting a mental health issue could impact on their job, new research has revealed.

A total of 70% of workers who were surveyed believe that disclosing a mental illness would result in that person being treated differently in the workplace.

The study was conducted by Kantar on behalf of See Change, an Irish organisation that is dedicated to ending mental health stigma.

Other findings reveal that half of those who responded to the survey (47%) worried that any discourse would mean they could be passed over for a promotion, while a further 37% said they would be afraid they would be excluded from tasks/meetings.

See Change said other findings indicated a stigma attached to mental health with research highlighting that one in five workers believe that is prevalent in their workplace, while two in every five workers say they have witnessed some form of stigmatising behaviour in the workplace.

See Change Ambassador, Adrian Yeates, said: “Personally, I feel that it comes down to a lack of knowledge or understanding of mental illness.

“We fear what we don’t know and therefore avoid dealing with issues that might be taboo or ‘too complicated’. Regrettably, some leaders in the workplace still buy in to the myth that only ‘strong’ people succeed, so they dare not acknowledge any perceived weakness or vulnerability.”

It was also pointed out that worryingly, mental health stigma is also one of the main barriers preventing employees from participating in wellbeing workshops, with many employees worried that being associated with such programmes may give the perception that they have a mental illness or difficulty and will be judged for attending.

However, more than half of workers feel their workplace is equipped to support employees with mental health issues.

Claire Kane, See Change Ambassador, added: “In the role I'm in now I feel totally supported, more than I have in any other role. A flexible attitude to work times and location makes me feel more in control and capable when I have bad days and my manager is so empathetic when it comes to dealing with things like grief and illness."

But when it comes to complex mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, many employees say that workplaces are noticeably less able to deal with these.

The research also revealed a majority of workers (60%) do not know that mental health is covered under legislation and the nine grounds of discrimination under disability.

See Change Programmes Leader, Barbara Brennan said that while many organisations have made some progress towards ending mental health stigma, there is still a lot of work to be done.

“At See Change, we are challenging these negative assumptions of mental health difficulties through our workplace programme, which helps organisations to create an open culture around mental health and end mental health stigma and discrimination,” she said.

“Through the programme, we also guide organisations on how best to create mental health policies and procedures.”

According to research from Ibec, both budget and planning are being put in place in many workplaces to put mental health firmly on the agenda over the next five years.

To find out more about the See Change Workplace Programme and claim your funded workshops for your organisation, email

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