Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. 1 in 6 people report having experienced a common mental health problem (like anxiety or depression) in any given week.
Mental health problems are common, and so it is incredibly important that mental health is taken seriously in the workplace. When we spend so much time at work, there is real potential that work could either cause or exacerbate mental health conditions. But addressing mental health properly is very important – it can save lives.
Employers have a legal responsibility to help their employees. Work-related mental health issues should be assessed to measure the risk levels to staff, and then risks should be removed or reduced as far as possible.
We are proud supporters of Mates in Mind. When Mates in Mind was Launched in 2017, the charity's work was rooted in improving mental health across the construction industry.
Mental health is a term used to describe a state of wellbeing. Good or bad mental health can happen to anybody, at any time. If somebody is in good mental health, they will be able to realise their own abilities, cope with the everyday stresses of life, work productively and contribute to their community. If somebody has bad mental health they may find it difficult to manage how they think, feel or behave in response to daily stresses.
Mental illness is different to mental health – everybody has mental health, but not everybody may experience mental illness. Mental illness affects the way that people think, feel, behave or act around with others. There are many different types of illness that have different symptoms. Mental illness can be episodic which means that there are periods of good health and periods of ill health. It can be treated through therapy, counselling or medication.
Everyone has down days, but when work is stressful for a prolonged time, it can begin to affect mental health. Pre-existing mental health conditions can be exacerbated by work.
When stress is prolonged it can lead to both physical and psychological damage, so it is important that workers are aware of the signs of stress and how to combat it. Working is thought to be good for mental health as the feeling of productivity and achievement is beneficial. However, if somebody is really struggling, the inability to function normally or complete tasks could take a hit to self-esteem.
It can be difficult to recognise the signs of mental ill health in other people, because everybody copes differently. Early warning signs to look out for are tiredness, avoidance, procrastination, emotional outbursts and absence.
There are several ways in which the risk of mental ill health can be reduced:
· - Having an open-door policy
· - Investing in an employee assistance programme with free counselling available
· - Training mental health first aiders and staff representatives
· - Making it clear that sick days, flexitime or work from home days can be taken when staff experience poor mental health
· - Implementing regular wellbeing check ups
· - Encouraging conversation between colleagues
· - Regular pay reviews or appraisals
Burnout is a state of exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. People who suffer from burnout may feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet expectations – they will feel emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted.
Burnout is a gradual process. People with burnout may feel like every day is a bad day, or may feel like they are past caring about their work life or career. Tasks seem dull or overwhelming, and they feel underappreciated at work. Burnout can result in a sense of failure or feeling trapped, loss of motivation and decreased satisfaction. It can also mean that people withdraw from responsibilities and isolate from their colleagues, procrastinate, or take their frustrations out on others.
People with burnout should reach out to those around them: social interaction can distract from the stresses of work. It is important to try to reframe the way that work is perceived. Create an open environment where people are able to ask for amendments to be made to their work schedule. For example, working from home can reduce the stress of a commute, whilst taking some holiday days can allow time to heal. Setting boundaries, having fun outside of work and learning to relax are also important steps to help with burnout.
If symptoms persist, they should seek treatment from your GP.
Depression is more than feeling unhappy or down in the dumps for a few days at a time. Depression is a chronic illness that can be made worse, or better, by work. In its most severe forms, depression can also make people feel suicidal.
Depression at work can be caused by pressure or stress. Money worries originating from low salary, bullying workplace culture, low confidence or self-esteem and unreasonable targets are all things that could cause depression or make existing mental health problems worse.
Dealing with depression at work
There is no easy way to treat depression, but with a combination of medication and therapy, people can begin to feel a real change. Those suffering with the symptoms of depression should speak to a GP and somebody they trust. Opening up about emotions can be scary, but it is an important step. As a workplace, you should be open to accommodating those with depression through long-term sick leave, holiday days, work from home or flexitime.
Building trust, providing constructive feedback and a supportive environment can really go a long way into making those with depression feel like they are accommodated in the workplace – giving them the space to heal.
A lot of people experience ongoing stress or anxiety in their daily lives. Anxiety at work can be difficult to deal with, as like other mental health problems, it can really affect the sufferer’s performance. The signs of work anxiety are irrational worrying, trouble sleeping, feeling jittery, tiredness, dry mouth, racing heart, and panic attacks. Conditions like social anxiety and even health anxiety can be amplified by an unsupportive work environment, so it is very important that employers take proactive steps to help those suffering.
Dealing with anxiety at work
Anxiety is often rooted in real-life scenarios. To deal with anxiety at work, it’s therefore imperative that the person with anxiety is able to open up and discuss the root of their problem. Whether it is conflict in the workplace, deadlines, relationships, work-life balance or low reward, there are many factors that can cause anxiety. As a workplace, having a flexible approach to staffing can really help anxiety sufferers as they will also benefit from work from home facilities or flexitime.
It is important to build trust and provide a supportive environment so that colleagues feel like they have somebody to talk to at work. Putting solutions in place is a great way to ease anxiety, so that the sufferer knows and understands how their problem is about to be made easier.