Mental health awareness in the work place
Each year at least one in six people experience poor mental health problems, such as anxiety, stress and depression in the workplace. Environment and working conditions can have a huge effect on our wellbeing, as well as performance.
A state of wellbeing
Your mental health can change at any time. If you have good mental wellbeing, you’ll feel confident and have positive self-esteem, and be able to build and maintain good relationships, coping with the stresses of daily life.
On the other hand, if you’ve low mental wellbeing, you’re much more more likely to develop mental health problems.
Think about what is affecting your wellbeing. Remember, look after both your physical and mental health and ask for help if needed.
Another contributing factor to mental health problems is stress – our body’s reaction to situations or events that put pressure on us.
The effect of stress can be both physical and mental. Physically you might feel tired, nauseous, chest pain or have frequent headaches.
Mentally you may become easily agitated and moody, have difficulty relaxing, develop low self-esteem and even avoid people or situations.
According to a recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development study, stress is now a major cause of long-term absence from work. The study also found that:
37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with their colleagues
57% find it hard to juggle multiple tasks
80% find it difficult to concentrate
62% take longer to do tasks
50% are potentially less patient with customers/clients
While work may not be the direct cause of your stress, it may be a contributing factor and so your employer has a duty of care to make adjustments where possible to support your mental health.
Some companies offer their employees a mental health day – allowing them to take a sick day for reasons other than their physical health.
You might work in a high-stress environment, already have a mental health problem or maybe your home life is affecting your mental wellbeing. Whatever the reason, a day away from the stresses of work can help, allowing you to take a step back to relax and focus on yourself.
If you’re an employee
Realising you are suffering from stress isn’t always easy – ask yourself – is my job making my mental health worse? Sometimes you may find that your work is affected because of your mental health.
For example, you may find it difficult to concentrate on simple tasks if you suffer from hypomania. But by making a few changes, and with support from your employer, your job can be a positive experience.
Work can have a negative impact on your mental health. This could be down to:
- workplace stress
- poor relationships with your colleagues
- the type of work you’re doing
- experiencing stigma, or being treated unfairly because of your mental health problem
- being unsure whether to tell your boss and colleagues about your mental health problem
- worrying about returning to work after a period of poor mental health
If work is affecting your mental health, you can take steps to address the problem. Make sure that you’re able to cope with the various demands of your job, speak to a manager if you feel overwhelmed, ask for help.
We all need a hand from time to time, sometimes you just need to discuss your workload, set realistic targets and learn to reward yourself for what you’ve already accomplished.
Try taking small breaks throughout your work day and at least half an hour away from your desk at lunchtime.
Developing an end of day habit can help you to switch off from work, do something such as tidying your desk or making a list of what needs to be done the next day, leaving you with a clear head to go home and enjoy your evening.
As mental health becomes less of a taboo subject, more and more people are opening up about their experiences. There is a wealth of coping strategies and support out there, you don’t need to suffer in silence.
Your employer should make it a priority to provide an open culture where you feel comfortable enough to talk openly about your mental health and feel supported.
If you’re an employer
It’s important that your workplace is equipped with the knowledge and understanding needed to help promote positive mental wellbeing and provide support.
Research from Mind – for better mental health confirms:
21% agreed that they have called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them
14% agreed that they had resigned when asked how workplace stress had affected them
42% had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them
30% of employees disagreed with the statement 'I would feel able to talk with my line manager if I was feeling stressed'
56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don't feel they have the right training or guidance
CIPD and Mind, have worked together to develop this revised mental health guide for managers, to help them facilitate conversations about stress and mental ill health and ensure that employee well-being is a priority.
Having a strategy in place will ensure that anyone suffering from mental health issues knows that they have your support. You should promote this strategy throughout your company and offer help, information and a listening ear for anyone who might simply need someone to talk to.
Some people manage their mental health by practising mindfulness – a technique involving focusing on what is happening in the present, in your body, mind and surroundings.
It’s a way of looking at our feelings and thoughts in a positive way so that we are more aware of them and are better prepared to react differently to them.
Practising mindfulness can help you to:
- increase awareness of your thoughts and feelings
- manage unhelpful thoughts
- develop more helpful responses to difficult feelings
- be kinder towards yourself
- feel calmer and able to manage stress better
Use relaxation techniques if you’re feeling overwhelmed, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
This can help reduce stress and anxiety by slowing your heart rate and breathing down, relaxing your muscles and mind.
Helpguide has a great post on using relaxation response to relieve stress, with information on finding the right technique to suit you and fitting it into your day to day life.
Many people feel scared and confused about confronting the issue. However, there are small steps you can take to look after your mental health at work and in everyday life – there are some very helpful resources out there.
- Mental Health Foundation has published some great tips on looking after your mental health. Some are as simple as keeping active, eating well and keeping in touch with friends and family. Sounds simple enough, but for someone suffering from anxiety or depression, this can seem impossible.
- Aware NI is the national depression based charity for Northern Ireland. They provide wellbeing programmes, mindfulness courses and some helpful factsheets on various mental health topics such as understanding depression and anxiety, Young Peoples mental health and even helping someone with depression/anxiety.
- Another great organisation is Mind – for better mental health, with informative webinars and an a-z of mental health, their website covers a lot on the topic. I found these 5 ways to wellbeing in the workplace tips very helpful.
- We have recently made our Suicide Prevention Awareness module freely available online – this module aims to help people to recognise when a friend, family member or colleague is suffering from mental ill health, we’ve had some great feedback on this module since it’s launch.