Despite a number of high-profile, hard-hitting campaigns, more than half (56%) of van drivers and owners still say there is a stigma attached to discussing mental health at work, according to the latest Business Barometer research from Mercedes-Benz Vans UK.
More than 2,000 van drivers and owners were asked to give their candid views and experiences of mental health issues in the workplace, and the top reason cited for this perceived stigma is because it is a ‘male-dominated industry’.
Being in a ‘a male-dominated’ workplace was a key factor for 50% of those who felt there was still a sigma, with a further 46% highlighting fears over job security and career progression that make talking about mental health a taboo at work.
Steve Bridge, managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, said: “A key component of these tragic statistics is that men are much less likely to talk about their feelings than women – something that is compounded within a ‘macho’ industry or role.
“We were the first van manufacturer to investigate attitudes towards mental health in this sector back in 2017, and want to continue to highlight these statistics to try to break this potentially deadly taboo and encourage van owners and operators to talk to loved ones, colleagues and managers if they are encountering mental health problems.”
According to the new survey, which was released today at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, 28% of managers said an employee had spoken to them about mental health concerns, although female managers are more likely to have experienced an employee talking about mental health concerns than male managers (32% vs 26%).
Nearly three out of five (57%) of those who say a colleague or employee has spoken to them about a mental health issue felt ‘glad they could confide in me’, but one in four admitted they felt uninformed, 21% said they felt embarrassed and a further 17% did not feel equipped to know what to do or say.
The prevailing taboo affects not just businesses – mental health conditions such as work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 15.8 million sick days last year according to ONS data – it can and does have a profound impact on people’s lives.
Bridge said: “There isn’t a quick fix or an easy answer to the issue of mental health in the workplace, but by talking about our feelings and taking a wellbeing complaint as seriously as a physical ailment, we can all work together to eradicate the perceived stigma around mental health.”
The latest Government figures (ONS Report 2001-2013) shows that if you are a man between 20 and 49, you're more likely to die from suicide than cancer, road accidents or heart disease and suicide rates in men aged between 45 and 59 have also now begun to rise, increasing to their highest levels since 1981.
Chris O'Sullivan, head of workplace at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “During this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week we’re focusing on stress – by tackling stress we can go a long way to tackle mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. But in order to confront these issues we need to eradicate the stigma, something that the Mercedes-Benz Vans research shows is still widespread amongst van-drivers and van-owners.
“It’s very important that male-dominated workplaces do more to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health issues and encourage open and honest conversations about mental wellbeing.
“We know from our own research that men are much less likely to seek support for a mental health problem than women.
“There are also added pressures that many van drivers face, namely insecure and unpredictable working conditions, particularly if they are part of today’s ‘gig economy’, combined with the challenge of getting to more places with less time in more traffic. All while keeping concentration.”