Supporting Mental Health at Work

It’s time to talk about mental health.

One in four people suffer from a mental health illness. Now, more than ever, it is important that we learn to look after our own and other people’s mental health – both in our personal and professional lives.

As part of our commitment to raise awareness of mental health issues, take steps to help maintain mental wellness and tackle the stigma still associated with mental health illness, Nockolds has created this hub to provide information, advice and resources to help keep you informed and protect your mental health.

Our mental health at work hub is created and updated by our mental health first aiders and employment lawyers.

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If you would like to support your employees mental health and wellbeing at work, speak to our HR Consultants to find out more about our Employee Assistance Programme scheme.

Frequently Asked Questions

We all have mental health, just like we have physical health. Both change throughout our lives and, just like our bodies, our minds can become unwell. Mental health is made up of our beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

The World Health Organisation describes mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can copy with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Poor mental health can result in illnesses ranging from anxiety and depression, to more severe conditions such as eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. Individuals suffer these conditions to a different extent and can experience different symptoms.

There is still stigma and misunderstanding about mental health. Increasing awareness of mental health by opening up conversations can help break the taboo and start to build a more open and inclusive culture.

Mental health issues usually arise from psychological, biological and social issues as well as difficult life events.

We all have days when we feel down, which usually pass without impacting on our lives. If these feelings last beyond a few weeks, or they are getting worse, it could be a sign you are suffering from a mental health illness.

If your beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviours have a significant negative impact on your ability to function and cope with the stresses of everyday life, it is important to seek early help and support.

We are all susceptible to mental health challenges. Developing our wellbeing, resilience and seeking support can prevent these challenges developing into a serious mental health condition.

The way we live our lives has a direct impact on both our physical and mental health. There are lots of small things we can do to improve or maintain good mental health. Talking, counselling, medication, exercise, a healthy diet, fresh air and good quality sleep can all help towards positive mental health.

The most important thing you can do to help someone suffering from poor mental health is to encourage them to seek appropriate help and treatment. Let them know it is okay for them to talk about their feelings. Be patient and try not to blame them for feeling anxious or depressed.

We all have ‘bad’ days when we feel down, but if these feelings continue, and begin to have a significant negative impact on your daily life, you may be suffering from depression.

Symptoms of depression vary from person to person, but often include feelings of worthlessness, isolation and hopelessness. You may find you sleep too much or too little, don’t eat properly and withdraw from social contact. Some people may even have thoughts of self-harming or suicide.

There is often no obvious reason for someone to be depressed although it can sometimes be as a result of a difficult life event, such as losing a job, a relationship breakdown or a serious illness.

If you have been diagnosed with a personality disorder, it does not mean that you are fundamentally different from anyone else, but at times you may need extra support. The word ‘personality’ refers to the pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that we have as individuals.

These affect the way we think, feel and behave towards others and ourselves. A personality disorder is a type of mental health problem where your attitudes, beliefs and behaviours cause you longstanding problems, but you find it difficult to change this unwanted pattern of behaviour.

The term PTSD describes a range of psychological symptoms which can be the result of a traumatic event. PTSD can be triggered by anything that consciously or unconsciously reminds someone of a specific life trauma, such as a car accident.

Symptoms of PTSD often don’t develop until years after the event and can include flashbacks, nightmares and lack of sleep. Effective treatment does exist to help people recover from PTSD.

There is now a wide range of treatment available to help people manage their mental health, such as medication and counselling.

Whilst medication, such as antidepressants can be effective for some people, they are not the solution for everyone and any medication should be reviewed regularly.

Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling are now widely available and very effective.

What suits one person does not suit another and, for some, a mixture of medication and talking therapies may be the best solution.

Employers have a fundamental duty of care for the health, safety and welfare of their workers and this includes protecting their mental health as well as their physical health.

Although a significant proportion of the workforce will suffer from poor mental health during their working life, discrimination against those with mental health issues unfortunately still remains a workplace problem.

Disability is a protected characteristics defined in the Equality Act 2010 as a ‘physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’. A range of mental health conditions can qualify as a disability under the Equality Act and do not need to be clinically well-recognised to qualify as a disability.

If an employee has a disability, the employer has a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate their needs and this includes those with mental health conditions. This may include adjusting someone’s working hours or duties, providing a mentor, allowing flexible working and working from home and increasing supervision and support.

Even if an individual’s mental health condition is not classed as a disability, it is still good practice for an employer to make appropriate changes to support them in their employment.

Employers should promote good mental health at work and put in place the key actions needed to support and look after the mental health of their employees. Key actions include:

• Train line managers to spot early signs of mental health issues, have open and sensitive conversations and offer support and flexibility
• Provide early access to external support such as occupational health and counselling
• Carry out risk assessments on work-related stress across the workforce to identify the main causes
• Review job descriptions and workloads to manage work-related stress
• Promote awareness of mental health issues across the workforce to help reduce stigma and foster a culture where people can talk openly
• Promote work-life balance so employees remain refreshed and productive
• Offer flexible working and working from home arrangements
• Put a Mental Health and Wellbeing policy in place and tailor other policies and practices to consider employee needs