Mental health in the workplace

World Mental Health Day takes place on 10th October, and this year's theme focuses on mental health in the workplace.

Stars such as Ruby Wax, Alistair Campbell, Stephen Fry, and most recently Dame Kelly Holmes have spoken out in recent years about their struggle with mental ill-health despite career success - and helped start conversations about these conditions.

According to NHS Digital, 1 in 6 of us will have experienced a common mental health problem - such as anxiety, stress, obsessive compulsive disorder or depression - within the past week. Yet, according to research from Mind, only 30% of staff feel comfortable speaking to their employer about such issues and 56% of employers would like to do more to support their workforce.

Fiona Edwards, our Chief Executive, said: “It’s great that people feel more able to speak about their mental health but we still have a long way to go.

“We all have mental health needs yet people tell us that talking about mental health in the workplace is still the last taboo. Employment can bring success which can boost self-esteem and confidence but it can also be a source of stress which can escalate. Too many of us still feel ashamed or scared to speak out and suffer in silence, masking symptoms until they reach crisis point or simply resigning due to  work pressure – often without disclosing the real reason for leaving.

“As a mental health provider, we are only too aware of how employment can impact on our mental health - both as an employer and in our experience of supporting people across Surrey and North East Hampshire.

“Providing mental health care can be very emotionally demanding work and we can only do our best for people when we look after ourselves. In our Trust we have a staff helpline and provide a programme of face to face peer support as well as mindfulness sessions for staff. We also work hard to create an anti-bullying culture and to encourage staff to speak out about problems.

“Managers have a responsibility to look for the signs that someone is struggling and to consider making reasonable adjustments to support them with flexible working, reducing hours or redistributing work amongst a team - just as you would if someone was returning to or from work with a physical injury or illness.

“We like to think of ourselves as capable at work and there can be a lot of shame attached to opening up about how you are feeling but it would be a better environment for people and business if we enable people to do this – so that it will one day be normal to take a sick day for mental health reasons.”

How to support your mental health at work:

  • Know your limits, be honest with yourself and recognise the warning signs that you are struggling.
  • Speak to your employer. You don’t have to be specific but be open about needing to adjust your workload, change your hours or take some time off - you’d be surprised how many employers would be open to discussing this.
  • Take time to switch off and do the things you enjoy – with mobile working, emails and social media available 24/7 it can be hard to switch off and have a good work life balance. Having clear boundaries about work and home life can ease anxiety and help you focus better.
  • Look after yourself – eat well and exercise to help regulate your mood and alleviate stress. Avoid foods that create emotional highs and lows such as sugar, caffeine and alcohol.

    Anybody experiencing mental ill-health should see their GP as soon as they can or refer themselves to Mind Matters Surrey (www.mindmattersnhs.co.uk/surrey), a talking therapies service for people experiencing mild to moderate mental ill-health, such as depression or anxiety. People in North East Hampshire and Farnham should contact TalkPlus (www.talkplus.org.uk).

    World Mental Health Day takes place on 10th October.