Talking Mental Health at Work – Our Q&A for World Mental Health Day

Did you know Monday 10th October is World Mental Health Day?

What’s more did you know that nearly half of all long term illness is due to poor mental health?

Or, that 70 million days are lost from work each year due to issues like anxiety, depression and stress related conditions, making it the leading cause of sickness absence?

Yet the stigma is such that many people are still afraid to admit to mental health problems at work.

So, today, we’re joining the likes of Virgin Trains – who are supporting the Mental Health Foundation this year – and talking about mental health. If you’re worried about your own mental health or that of a colleague read on…

1. Should I tell my boss if I’m suffering from mental ill health?

Ideally yes. It’s especially important if your mental health condition poses a risk of any kind, but also by talking openly to your employer you could be able to access much-needed support to remain in work. Tweet: By talking openly to your employer you could be able to access much-needed support at work. https://goo.gl/qJN8Co #QAngel @Angel_HR_UK

2. So what help can I get to stay in work?

The government-funded initiative Fit for Work is there to give support to GPs, employers and employees to help those who are in work or off sick. They say by being open about your mental health concerns with your employer it should:

Make it easier to get time off for medical appointments during office hours;
Be easier for your employer to take reasonable steps to accommodate your needs, like changes to your working pattern, if necessary;
Alert your employer, and colleagues, of what to do if you have a medical emergency.

3. What should I tell my employer then?

Well, before talking to them you should prepare what you’re going to say. That way you’re more likely to make yourself understood and to calm your nervousness about sharing this sort of information.

For example:

Try asking your GP about how your condition might affect your work;
Prepare reading materials for your employer to help them understand your condition;
Note down the steps you are taking to manage your condition and how these may impact your work;
Consider what changes to your current working practices might be helpful to you and your condition.

4. So, what do they need to know?

Well, your employer doesn’t need to know all the gory details of your mental health condition. Tweet: Your employer doesn’t need to know all the gory details of your mental health condition. https://goo.gl/qJN8Co #QAngel @Angel_HR_UK
It’s important to be clear and concise about your condition and to tell them how it affects you and your ability to work; and how they might need to respond in a crisis.

If your employer is unable to support you in your current role or retrain you for another with your mental health condition you’ll be deemed to be unfit for work.

However, it’s often better to stay in work if possible.

5. Why is it better to stay in work?

In 2006, the Department for Work and Pensions set out to answer the question ‘Is work good for your health and wellbeing?’

They found being in work:

Keeps us busy, challenges us and gives us the means to develop ourselves;
Gives us a sense of pride, identity and personal achievement;
Enables us to socialise, build contacts and find support;
Provides us with money to support ourselves and explore our interests;
Plus, work can help us focus more than being at home.

6. Why is focusing important?

Focusing on where you’re at right now is a core component of happiness. Tweet: Focusing on where you’re at right now is a core component of happiness. https://goo.gl/qJN8Co #QAngel @Angel_HR_UK
Dr Matt Killingsworth who built an app, Track Your Happiness, that lets people report their feelings in real time says:

“People are less happy when they’re distracted by the past or the future, spending their time with technology rather than with other people, or really engaging in something in a sustained way.”

Find out more about his research in Dr Matt Killingsworth’s TED talk here.

A great way to focus on the present is to learn Mindfulness. Tweet: A great way to focus on the present is to learn Mindfulness. https://goo.gl/qJN8Co #QAngel @Angel_HR_UK

7. How can mindfulness help my mental health?

Well, in a study by Oxford University those that completed the Be Mindful Course at Mindfulness Online achieved nearly 60% reductions in depression and anxiety.

Which is why companies like BT and AIG are not only offering their staff Mindfulness training but also seeing improved staff wellbeing as a result.

8. So, how can I support a colleague?

It’s important to consider that supporting each other with mental health problems is really important. Tweet: Consider that supporting each other with mental health problems is really important. https://goo.gl/qJN8Co #QAngel @Angel_HR_UK
Research shows that people with good support networks and healthy relationships experience fewer mental health problems.

The Mental Health Foundation therefore advises us to:

Give time: put more time aside to connect with friends and family;
Be present: it can be tempting to check your phone, Facebook messages or even work emails when with family and friends. Try to be present in the moment and be there for your loved ones.
Switch out of ‘work mode’ whenever possible;
Listen: actively listen to what others are saying in a non-judgemental way and concentrate on their needs in that moment;
Be listened to: share how you are feeling, honestly, and allow yourself to be listened to and supported;
Recognise unhealthy relationships: being around positive people can make us happier; however, our wellbeing can be negatively affected by harmful relationships, leaving us unhappy;
Recognising this can help us move forward and find solutions to issues.

9. What should I do if I’ve experienced mental ill health and am now looking for a new job?

So, most application forms will ask if you have a disability and mental illness can be classed as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA).

This means an employer should not treat someone less favourably because of any mental health issue without justifiable reason. In fact, you might be automatically given an interview – as many organisations are trying to increase the number of disabled people working for them!

Remember, if an application form asks you to give information about your health and you don’t answer honestly your employer could terminate your employment if they found out the truth at a later date.

10. What are your parting tips for mental health sufferers looking for work?

Volunteering can be a great way to raise your confidence, self esteem and help you get back into work in the first instance.

Otherwise you can check out the Mental Health Foundation or Fit for Work for more tips, information and support; and, find out more about the MHF’s World Mental Health Day Tea & Talk fundraising events.

Now over to you:

Have any thoughts on what you’ve read? Are you searching for a new job? Want to ask about applying for jobs with mental health concerns? Got any burning questions we could put to future Q & Angel guests? As ever, we want to hear what you’ve got to say!

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