Despite a number of high-profile, hard-hitting campaigns, 56% of van drivers and owners still believe there is a stigma attached to discussing mental health at work.

More than 2,000 van drivers and owners surveyed for the latest Business Barometer research from Mercedes-Benz Vans UK were asked to give their candid views and experiences of mental health issues in the workplace.

The top reason cited for this perceived stigma was because it is a ‘male-dominated industry’.  This 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 made talking about mental health taboo at work.

According to the survey, released last month 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 were more likely to have experienced this than male managers (32% vs 26%).

Nearly three out of five (57%) of those who said a colleague or employee had spoken to them about a mental health issue felt ‘glad they could confide in me’.  However, 25% admitted they felt uninformed, 21% felt embarrassed, and a further 17% did not 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 – it also has a profound impact on people’s lives.

The latest Government figures show that men between 20 and 49 are more likely to die from suicide than cancer, road accidents or heart disease, and that suicide rates in men aged between 45 and 59 have also now begun to rise, increasing to their highest levels since 1981.

“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,” Steve Bridge, the Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, said.

“There isn’t a quick fix or an easy answer, but by talking about our feelings and taking a well-being complaint as seriously as a physical ailment, we can work together to eradicate the perceived stigma around mental health.”

Chris O’Sullivan, Head of Workplace at the Mental Health Foundation, added: “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 well-being.

“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!”