Mental health problems at work are more common than you might think. Around 1 in 6 workers have a commonly diagnosed mental health condition such as anxiety or depression. 

However, despite these numbers and a growing awareness of the impact both to individuals and businesses of promoting good mental health in the workplace, many people are still reluctant to open up to about their experiences. There is still a sense of stigma around mental health, which prevents people from talking openly about it at work.

It’s common for people to fear being passed over for promotion or losing their job altogether. They may worry that their colleagues and managers will treat them differently or see them as less capable than before.  

But there are many reasons why being open about mental health problems at work is a good idea:

  1. If your HR department or manager is aware of the impact of a mental health problem, they can make reasonable adjustments to support you and ensure you’re able to stay mentally healthy at work. Legally an employer only has to make those adjustments for you if they’re aware of your needs
  2. Keeping things secret and putting on a pretence can actually be more stressful than talking about things openly
  3. If you’re open and honest with friends and colleagues, they’re better able to support you. And you never know who else may be experiencing similar problems. By sharing your experience, you may make it easier for others to open up

What adjustments can I ask for at work?

Many people with ongoing mental health problems meet the definition of a disability as set out in the Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act. This means that you’re protected by law from discrimination and harassment and are entitled to reasonable adjustments at work to support you in your job role.

If you want to understand more about your rights and responsibilities as an employee, we can arrange for you to speak to an experienced legal adviser on the phone.

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There are many practical ways to adjust your working environment or job role, which can make it easier for you to stay mentally healthy at work. Here are a few examples:

  • Creating a separate, quiet workspace where you can focus and concentrate
  • Having the flexibility to work from home on days when you feel less well
  • Using email and voicemail rather than talking face to face or over the phone
  • Allowing flexible working hours to accommodate therapeutic and medical appointments or the side effects of some medications such as drowsiness

In addition to the adjustments you can make together with your employer, there are practical things you can do yourself to safeguard your mental wellbeing at work.

  • Talk about your feelings – this can help you see things from a different perspective and prevent negative cycles of overthinking
  • Stay active – regular physical activity can improve your sleep patterns and boost your self-confidence. Even a short walk each lunchtime can make a difference
  • Accept yourself – it’s easier to look after your mental wellbeing when you feel good about who you are
  • Make time for things you enjoy – throwing yourself into something you love doing, whether it’s reading, dancing or cooking, is a great stress reliever
  • Always take your lunch break – regular breaks away from your desk and computer allow space for the brain to process information. On busy days these breaks can help you feel in control and less overwhelmed

How to be mentally healthy at work, written by the mental health charity, Mind, is full of useful advice and information on workplace bullying, combatting stress at work and working with a mental health problem.