Breaking the stigma associated with mental health

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Nice Network head of marketing, Nikki Lee, talks about the important role businesses play in eradicating the stigma surrounding mental health.

Nikki Lee


According to a recent report by Business in the Community (BITC), 60% of employees have experienced a mental health problem due to work and 31% have been formally diagnosed with a mental health issue.

This is what inspired us to take part in two training programmes last month – helping us gain a better understanding of how to address mental health in the workplace and eradicate the stigma surrounding the subject.

It has never been so important for businesses to talk openly with their employees about mental health issues and the ‘A LIFE Worth Living’ and ‘Mental Health First Aid and Suicide Prevention’ courses, delivered by Washington Mind, really opened our eyes to this.

Much has been made of breaking down the stigma associated with the issue over recent years and its clear to see why.  The figures highlighted within the sessions really shocked me.

According to the NHS, one in four adults and one in 10 children experience mental illness, and many more of us know and care for people who do.  These are family members, friends, employees and colleagues.

However, one of the hardest hitting facts was that the majority of people who take their own life every year are men.  In fact, research and evidence tells us that 84 men a week end their lives by suicide.

As a telecoms company with a predominantly male workforce, this really hit home.

Having completed the course, this made the leadership team realise that we really need and want to pioneer wellbeing in the workplace, and challenge the ‘man up’ attitude and the idea that reaching out for support is weak.  We need to eradicate the negativity associated with mental health and the idea that reaching out for support is a sign of weakness when in fact, it’s the opposite.  It’s a sign of self-control, strength and understanding.

Both courses were brilliant and very intense at times.  It’s an informal, relaxed interactive session which really opened our mind to the scale of the problem and the signs we need to look out for.

Businesses provide more than just a workplace, they provide a community.  It’s our job to ensure we look after the community and by better informing and supporting our wider community, we can make the right decisions and make further steps forward to looking after our people both personally and professionally.