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Mental Health Under the Microscope

By Paige Hempsall

One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lifetime. 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. 

1.4 million working people are suffering from work-related ill health, and 23.5 million working days are lost due to work-related ill health. As you can see below the highest percentage of new and long-standing cases of ill health and working days lost by type of ill health is attributable to stress, depression or anxiety. 

Stress vs Mental Ill Health

Stress is not a diagnosable mental ill-health condition, however, stress can develop into a mental ill-health condition such as depression and anxiety. Stress is a physical, mental or emotional factor causing either physical or mental tension.

We all experience stress and we all manage stress differently. Stress can be either good or bad, the source which drives us through situations or presents too much pressure to deal with. There is no one way this can impact an individual.

Work-related Stress 

There are 602,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (2018/19) Within this sector alone, 12.8 million working days were lost.

The HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed on them’.

Possible Signs of Work-related Stress

  • Withdrawn 
  • Loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • Tearful, sensitive and aggressive
  • Taking more time off work
  • Arriving late for work
  • Nervous or overwhelmed at the workload

Mental Ill Health

Mental ill-health refers to a wide range of mental ill-health conditions/disorders which affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. A common example of mental ill-health include, depression, anxiety, psychosis, self-harm and suicide. All examples are umbrella terms for a range of diagnosable conditions which affect and are managed by individuals in different ways.

Signs, symptoms and further understanding into each can be found on our Mental Health Awareness e-learning we have created.

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84% of UK line managers believe they are responsible for employee wellbeing, but only 24% have received training. 49% of line managers reported a wish for basic training in common mental health conditions. 

Addressing Work-related Stress at Work

1. Management Standards

These are a set of conditions which demonstrate good practise through a step by step risk assessment approach. Details of this can be found on the HSE Website.

2.  Areas which Affect Stress Levels

These areas are associated with poor health, lower productivity and increased accident and sickness absence rates:

  • Demands - i.e. workload, work patterns, work environment.
  • Control - i.e. how much say the person has in the way they do their work.
  • Support - i.e. information and support provided, including encouragement and resources provided by the organisation.
  • Relationships - i.e. relationships at work and avoiding negative culture e.g. bullying/harassment.
  • Role - i.e. understanding of roles and responsibilities.
  • Change - i.e. management and communication/management of change and transitions.
Promoting Mental Health in the Workplace

1. Recognising and Challenging Stigma 

Normalise mental health and promote awareness to reduce negative perceptions, attitudes and behaviours i.e. discrimination, in the workplace. Implementing disciplinary action.

2. Communication

Encourage communication through meetings, one to ones, surveys, anonymous safety observation, open-door policies, visual communication i.e pictures, posters and other displayed in places such as notice boards etc.

3. Risk Assessing

Complying with the HSE standards by implementing a suitable stress risk assessment. 

4. Reasonable Flexibility 

Encourage discussion on 6 areas, regular breaks, flexible working requests, support with managing workloads and who to report to.

Mental Health Awareness Training

The awaited ‘Mental Health Awareness’ learning, providing awareness training for both employees and managers is now available to access on Safety Cloud. This offers a cost-effective way to develop a general awareness of what mental health and mental ill-health is along with signs, symptoms and facts on these areas, as well as how to manage this in the workplace as an individual. Furthermore, multiple signposts for additional help and advice can be found.

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Tags: Staff Wellbeing