Mental Health

Additional online info: 

ACAS guidance on definition of Mental Health

"Mental health is the mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with the normal stresses of everyday life.

If we are feeling good about ourselves we often work productively, interact well with colleagues and make a valuable contribution to our team or workplace.

Positive mental health is rarely an absolute state. One may feel in good mental health generally but also suffer stress or anxiety from time to time.

Mental ill-health can range from feeling 'a bit down' to common disorders such as anxiety and depression and, in limited cases, to severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia."

EHRC guidance on Myths and Facts 

Myth: Mental health conditions are rare and unusual. None of my staff have a mental health condition.

1 in 5 employees are affected by depression, anxiety or other mental health condition to a clinically diagnosable degree. Psychiatric Morbidity report, ONS (2000). 

Myth: People with severe mental health conditions are not able to work.

Not necessarily. Just because someone is diagnosed with a mental health condition like schizophrenia, it does not mean that they cannot work or are unable to work. The vast majority of people who have experienced a mental health condition continue or return to work successfully. 

Myth: Work makes mental health problems worse.

Not necessarily. In fact it has been shown that long periods out of work can actually lead to the deterioration in health and well-being. Work is therefore generally good for health and beneficial to well-being and the benefits apply equally to people who have mental health problems, including those who have more severe conditions.

Poor conditions in the workplace however can make poor mental health worse and thus limit the benefits of working. For this reason it is imperative for employers to foster work environments that are conducive to good mental well-being. Government Office for Science. (2008). Foresight Mental Capital and Well-being Project (2008). Final Project report. Making the most of ourselves in the 21st Century. 

Myth: Employing someone with a mental health problem will be difficult or impossible.

Research suggests the opposite. It has been found, for example, that 85% of employers who took on staff with mental health conditions did not regret doing so. Royal College of Psychiatrists (2008).

Since it is estimated that 1 in 5 employees already have a mental health problem then it’s extremely likely that you are already employing someone with a mental health problem, you are just unaware of it.  

Myth: Someone who states that they have previously had a mental health condition will have a bad sickness absence record in the future.

Although some people who experience mental health conditions may need to take time off work, many are able to continue without time off, or return after a period of ill health. People can and do recover from mental health conditions and although some experience conditions over a long period of time, the vast majority of people experience only a single episode and recover completely. This is true of schizophrenia as it is of depression Over 70% of people who experience a mental health problem recover fully. The British Psychological Society (2000). 

Myth: When a member of staff goes on sickness absence due to a mental health problem it is best to leave them for as long as possible to avoid hassling them.

Contrary to this belief, research has shown that a lack of contact from a manager can actually make people feel less able to return. Early, regular and sensitive contact can in fact be a key factor in facilitating an early return to work. 

Myth: Mental health conditions are a sign of weakness. Those who have them are not as intelligent as other people and therefore less likely to be able to do a good job.

Do you consider these people to be weak or less able than others? Winston Churchill, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, Ludwig Van Beethoven. These people have all had mental health conditions and have made a vital contribution to world history. Is discrimination getting in the way of recruiting someone who could make a real contribution to your organisation? 

Myth: It will cost a lot for me to put adjustments in place for someone who has a mental health problem.

The vast majority of adjustments are simple, inexpensive, and make good business sense. Many employers report significant ‘universal design’ benefits for their other staff too. For example, implementing flexible working hours, occasionally being allowed to work from home. A looked-after workforce will also be more committed and less likely to go off sick. It should also be remembered that implementing reasonable adjustments for someone with a mental health problem is also law. 

Myth: I am putting my staff/customers at risk of violence if I employ an individual with mental health conditions as they are dangerous.

Not the case. Sensationalist reporting of a tiny minority of cases of individuals with severe mental illnesses spread this myth. The sad truth is that people with mental health conditions are more likely to hurt themselves than others. 0.01% of all deaths in the UK, and 6% of all murders were committed by somebody with a diagnosed mental disorder in 2005 ONS (2005).

You are more likely to get knocked over by a bus than experience violence from someone with a mental health condition. 

Myth: "There's nothing I can do to help."

Actually, there’s lots you can do. Issues in the workplace can have a significant effect on someone's state of mind. Feeling like they have control over their work and understanding of their role can really help someone who is anxious, for example.