Do you think about mental health in the workplace when you think about health? We are all more health conscious thinking about the food we eat and the exercise that we take. We are all very familiar with the idea of physical health. Yet we all have mental health too. It can vary from good to bad, we can become unwell, yet somehow we treat mental illness differently and find it harder to talk about and be around.

Mental health in the workplace throws up problems surprisingly often. 1 in 6 employees are dealing with a problem such as anxiety, depression or stress at this very moment. Nearly half of all employers have mental health in the workplaceseen an increase in absence due to a mental health problem. So given this issue is so common in the work place why do we find it so hard to talk about and what can we do about it?

What you can do and what you are able to do may change depending on your role and if you are the person who is suffering problems or if you are trying to support someone else.

Mental health in the workplace and you

If your mental health in the workplace is a problem, you should always consider talking to your employer about your problems because that will allow you to access support or changes in your role if you need it. You don’t have to tell your employer though and many find the stigma about mental illness too great and avoid asking for the help they need.

If you find that things at work are getting too hard to cope with rather than pushing on through it you should think about talking to someone you trust. That might be a colleague or a Union official or many employers have confidential counselling services. But it is important that you get help early.

Mental health in the workplace and others

If someone approaches you saying that they are having problems with mental health in the workplace cope how can you help them? Perhaps the simplest thing you can do is to listen. Don’t judge or try to tell them what to do but simply listen and try to help them to understand how they are feeling.

Many people worry about saying the wrong thing or making things worse, but for most people who are stressed, anxious and depressed the sense of being alone and having no support is one of the worst parts. Even if you are ‘just listening’ you will be making a huge difference. You may make the difference for them that day. Remember that you can be supportive without being the person’s main support. Encourage them to think about how they can make things better. What changes can they make? Could they talk to a counsellor on the company helpline?

There are many things we can do to tackle mental health in the workplace and being confident in talking about mental health is a good first step. If someone you know is struggling with their mental health don’t shy away from the problem remember that you can be as supportive as you would be if they had a broken leg or a bought of the flu.