Workplace Health | Week 3 - Mental Health Part 1

Workplace Health | Week 3 - Mental Health Part 1

Friday 28th February 2020
Lewis Fletcher

Mental Health at work - Part 1

For many people, work is a major part of life. Work is where we spend much of our time as it is the place where we get our income from as well as being the place where we make most of our friends. Therefore, having a fulfilling job can be very good for your mental health as well as your general wellbeing.

There are times in life where everything gets on top of us. Sometimes these problems are work-related such as deadlines or travel. However, sometimes it can be something else - our health, circumstances or relationships.

Protecting and addressing mental health is therefore vital for those who have existing issues, for those who are at risk and for the workforce as a whole. This is because a toxic work environment can be corrosive to our mental health.

A result of having good mental health at work is that you have good management. This is shown by strong evidence which has been provided by workplaces which have a high level of mental health well being as they also are much more productive. By addressing mental health at work, productivity is increased by as much as 12%.
We have written this article to help you to:
 Have an idea of how to manage your own mental health both at work and at home
 To be able to reach out to colleagues who are in distress
 To have an idea of how you can work alongside others to make your workplace more mentally healthy for everyone.


What is mental health? Mental health is the way in which we think and feel about our ability to deal with ups and downs in life. It is something which we all have. When you feel good mental health, it is because you are feeling a sense of purpose and direction. This is the energy which prompts us to do the things in which we want to do and which helps us deal with the various challenges which we encounter in life. When you think about your physical health the first thing that comes to mind is often keeping fit and eating a balanced diet whilst if you need help you seek it as early as possible. Mental health is just the same.

By enjoying a good mental health, you can make the most of your potential whilst being able to cope with all that life throws at you. This helps you to play a full part in your relationships as well as your community and workplace.
Mental health isn't something that stays the same consistently. As circumstances change it fluctuates as you move through the different stages of your life.
The term "distress" is a term which is used to describe a time when a person isn't coping. This can be for whatever reason, for example it could be something which is happening at home or the pressures of work. It could also be the start of a mental health problem such as depression. When we feel distressed, what we need is a compassionate, human response. The earlier we are able to recognise when something isn't quite right, the earlier we can seek support.

What are mental health problems?

In life there are times where we all feel frightened, down or stressed. For the most part these feelings pass over time but sometimes they develop into a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression. The problems can massively impact on our daily lives and can be complex, requiring life-long treatment.

There are several factors that can affect mental health problems. Genetics, poverty, childhood trauma, ongoing physical injuries and discrimination are a few of many. The latest large-scale survey which took place in England suggested that one in six people experience the symptoms of a mental health problem in any given week.

Sadly, over 6,000 people each year die by suicide in the UK after having a long-term mental health problem. This may reduce the life expectancy by as many as 21 years due to associated physical health problems.

Different mental health problems affect people in a variety of different ways and therefore it is key to understand an individual's experience. The diagnosis is not a definite way to be able to understand a person's experience. Some people with schizophrenia for example live pretty much ordinary lives, and some people with anxiety are severely impacted by their condition.

How to recognize a mental health problem

Mental health problems can have a lot of different symptoms and signs associated with them. As a rule, you should seek help from your GP if you have difficult feelings that are:
 Stopping you from getting on with your life.
 Having a big impact on the people who you work or live with.
 Affecting your mood over several weeks.
 Causing you to have thoughts of suicide.

In the workplace we might notice that we are more tired than we usually are. Therefore, this may cause us to make uncharacteristic mistakes or make us find it hard to motivate ourselves. It could also cause issues with regards to timekeeping or our temper.

We might look or feel very tired or drained. We might find we isolate ourselves, avoid colleagues or appear distracted. We might procrastinate more - or grind to a halt altogether. Or we might speed up or become chaotic, intruding into others' conversations and work, and taking on more work than we can manage.

We may find these early warning signs hard to see in ourselves, and it can help to have colleagues who can help us connect this to our mental health.
If things progress, you might see more obvious signs of a mental health problem in a colleague - outbursts of anger or emotion, absences from work, or not looking after their appearance as they normally would. You may see signs that they have been sleeping less or perhaps drinking more in the evening.

We hope that this article helped and helped to raise awareness. If any of the above affects you please get in touch with your local GP immediately or seek expert advice. Stay safe, we will see you again next week for part 2.