From education to employment

Breaking mental health stigma must start at the top

James Rudoni, Managing Director of Mates at Mind

Over the last two years, mental health has become a key boardroom issue in Britain, but the gap between the perception of how much has been achieved and the reality is still wide.

The rhetoric about mental health used by senior business leaders is not always being translated into tangible actions.

At present, 58 per cent of them think that their organisations support their staff, while only 42 per cent of employees with no managerial responsibility say that staff with mental health issues were being supported (Mental Health at Work 2018 report).

The human and financial costs of mental ill-health are huge:

  • Every week, more than 100 people take their own lives in the UK (source: Mind).
  • 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems lose their jobs each year (source: Thriving at Work report)
  • The cost of poor mental health to the UK economy has been estimated at between £74 – £99 billion per year, according to the report Thriving at Work. Published in October 2017

These figures reflect the enormity and complexity of the task ahead of us.

We need the commitment at the top of organisations to drive a radical change in workplace culture across the UK.

  Speaking to the British Safety Council, Dame Carol Black, expert government advisor on health and work and a passionate campaigner for better mental health, says:


“The stigma surrounding mental health problems still exists, although to a lesser extent than before.

“Many people believe that their professional development and career progression will be compromised if they admit to suffering or having experienced mental health issues.

“One of the ways to stop this is for the chief executive and senior managers in a company to talk about it, rather than brush it under the carpet.

“Real progress can be made if somebody high up in the organisation, who has experienced mental health problems, is willing to discuss it.”




Working in partnership with Mates in Mind, the British Safety Council has developed much needed tools to help people start and manage difficult conversations about mental health.


Its mental health training courses, include:

  • Start the Conversation – a 45-minute session that aims to get employees thinking about mental health and talking about it.
  • Manage the Conversation – a three-hour workshop for line managers to give them the skills and confidence to have conversations about mental health.
  • Mental Health First Aid – a two-day course that teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue.

The British Safety Council also offers a range of wellbeing courses to help organisations with the development of a positive mental health culture, such as Resilience, Stress Awareness and Managing Stress training.   



At Mates in Mind, we believe that only when companies and regulators go beyond tackling a crisis of mental ill-health and start preventing it in the first place, will a long-lasting transformation of workplace mental health begin.

Working in collaboration with industry partners, Mates in Mind, of which the British Safety Council is a proud supporter and one of the founding partners, has developed a comprehensive mental health programme, based on the principle that there is no health without mental health.

Mates in Mind is now working with more than 200 organisations across the construction and construction-related industries, creating better awareness and challenging the stigma associated with poor mental health. This message is now reaching more than 187,000 workers.

James Rudoni, Managing Director of Mates at Mind

About Mates in MindA registered charity working in the UK that aims to provide clear information to employers on available support and guidance on mental health, mental illness and mental wellbeing, and how they can address this within their organisations. Mates in Mind looks to make sense of what options and support are available to employers wishing to promote improved mental health within their workforce.  

Mates in Mind is a collaboration of founding partners: Health in Construction Leadership Group and the British Safety Council and is supported by core partner charities Mind, Samaritans, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England and Inspire. It is also supported by construction industry charities and bodies and has various Mates in Mind business champions, including: Balfour Beatty; eight2O; Galliford Try; Mineral Products Association; RSE Group; Sellafield; Tarmac; and Tideway.  Quotes of support from these organisations are available on request. 

Mates in Mind was the result of a Health in Construction Leadership Group summit in early 2017 for construction industry CEOs and senior leaders who voted overwhelmingly to improve the mental wellbeing of its workforce. At an event in January 2017, Mates in Mind was launched and the pilot phase was started. Mates in Mind was featured in the Thriving at Work report published in October 2017.

About the British Safety CouncilSince its foundation in 1957, the British Safety Council has campaigned tirelessly to protect workers from accidents, hazards and unsafe conditions, and played a decisive role in the political process that has led to the adoption of landmark safety legislation in the UK. Its members in more than 60 countries are committed to protecting and improving the wellbeing of workers, believing that a healthy and safe work environment is also good for business.

As part of its charitable work, the British Safety Council leads health and safety networking forums for all sectors, facilitates and promotes best practice in Britain and overseas. It also offers a range of services and products, including training, qualifications, publications, audits and awards. The British Safety Council works closely with organisations, charities and individuals who share its vision of ensuring that every worker goes home at the end of the day as healthy as they were when they went to work.

Related Articles