Be Mental Health Savvy At Work

The BBC reported that 300,000 people in the UK leave their jobs every year, as a direct result of a mental health condition. BOOM.

A recent survey that I conducted indicated that only 31% of participants would be comfortable disclosing a mental health condition to an employer. That leaves a staggering 69% that would suffer in silence.

I can understand, because I used to be part of that 69%. We don’t talk about ‘head issues,’ because we’re afraid of what might happen. “They’ll think I can’t do my job properly,” or “I’ll never get promoted, because they’ll think I can’t cope.” Sound familiar?

It doesn’t help that popular TV shows such as, ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Game of Thrones,’ (which I love btw), enforce the idea that in order to be successful in life, you should be ruthless, hard and cunning…. ALL THE TIME! Because that’s ‘realistic’….

Organisations such as Mental Health First Aid, are starting to enforce change in employer understanding, particularly in bigger companies.

However, it’s up to YOU to safeguard your own mental health. To use my favourite analogy… Would you suffer in silence if your leg was hanging off? Or if you’d been sick five times in the toilets? I like to think that you wouldn’t. The brain deserves the same amount of respect as the body.

I can’t guarantee that your employer will have the reaction you want, but, they do have to take it seriously.

When to act

  • If you don’t feel right in yourself, i.e, the negative thoughts and feelings that circulate throughout your brain are starting to affect your daily life, on a continued basis.
  • You feel more emotional or tired than usual. Sleep is a key indicator of mental health.
  • You’re reluctant to engage in social activities.
  • No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to switch off.

How to act

  • The first one is simple, go and see your GP. Make a list of symptoms to keep you on track, and be honest.
  • If you need time off, TAKE IT. Your brain like your body needs time to heal.
  • Schedule a meeting with your line manager and a member of HR (if possible) and explain how your feeling and what they can do to help. Maintain that although your mental health is a problem right now, it won’t impact your daily job anymore than a cold would. You deserve the right support.
  • It’s also important to know your rights, both within the company that you work for and in general. So, I would advise that you do your research before you have any meetings. For example, in the UK you have a right to request flexible working hours. In most cases this needs to be done in writing. The request should be considered and decided upon within three months of the receipt. Employers do not have to accept your request, but they must have a sound business reason for rejecting it.
  • Accept that you’re not feeling well and be kind. You’re not pathetic… you’re human!

On average we spend 2,080 hours a year at work, it’s OK to spend a few on your brain.





  1. L allen
    March 8, 2018 / 7:14 am

    I can so relate to lack of support in the workplace. I have worked for the NHS for 16 years, and in 2016 I became really unwell with anxiety following a family bereavement. I realised I felt unwell but at the time didn’t give It the title of anxiety!. I took time off sick to recouperate, I eventually sought counselling and found an excellent one to be honest I was lucky , she got me to a place where I could manage my anxiety so I went back to work after 6 months but only after a few weeks felt work was adding to the stresses and went off again. Throughout work didn’t contact me , follow policy, and lacked any kind of empathy to my situation. I ended up being off for a year which to cut a long story short ended up in me resigning from my position , as work had decided they were going to take me to tribunal because of the amount of time id had off. They were tick boxing throughout this process, they weren’t offering support , encouragement to get me back to work. I needed reassurance there back up instead I was let down. My mantra was at the end of the day your a blob and easily replaced that’s how they made me feel, ironic really when you work for the NHS and our aim is to help care support and make people better.
    I’m now unemployed with a ‘poor sickness record and living with anxiety . My aim is to go back into employment and proof them wrong… this path is a difficult but one I will follow . I got better from a very unhappy place …… better understanding of this illness is needed by employers … for God’s sake I worked in health and if they don’t get it !!! We’ve got a long way to go ! 😁

  2. August 9, 2018 / 10:14 pm

    Speaking from the US here, but yeah….this is sound advice. I’m currently on a leave of absence from my work because work itself was triggering severe anxiety. It’s a bit of a gamble trying to get support in a situation where the people you’re requesting help from are the trigger, but backing it up with medical support, documentation, and a solid actionable request will help.

    It’s scary to think how many people work through major mental health problems without ever speaking up. I can’t say what the numbers are here in the US, but I can’t imagine it’s that much better with health care being what it is. Most insurers only allow a set number of therapy visits in a year, meaning it’s hard to get support from the medical community to begin with, let alone at work.

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