The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as a ‘mental state of wellbeing’ which is in place to help individuals cope with day-to-day life, as well as any significant life events.
Now, if you’ve ever suffered from any mental health issues, or know anything about mental health, then it might be a bit more complex than that. Mental health is more than just simply not suffering from mental health issues.
The WHO explains that mental health is a complex continuum, which differs person to person.
There is also a difference between suffering from mental health conditions and low mental wellbeing.
In fact, some people who suffer from mental disorders such as paranoia and schizophrenia might not always suffer from low levels of mental wellbeing and vice versa.
There are a number of determinants of mental health issues, including biological factors, violence, poverty, psychological abuse and exposure to trauma.
An individual can experience mental health issues at any point during their life and it is important to understand that mental health issues do not discriminate.
What are mental health problems?
According to The Mental Health Foundation mental health problems are simply things that make it harder for us to live our lives to the full.
These are usually painful and sad emotions or dispositions which might make you feel low, sad, hopeless or fearful.
It is important to understand that mental health problems are not weaknesses, they are simply our reaction to external or internal factors and situations that surround us.
Some mental health issues and problems can lead to mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety or paranoia.
The link between mental health and work
There is a strong link between suffering from mental health issues and the workplace. Most of us have to work to earn a living and the workplace can be a fantastic place to build up confidence, resilience and your overall mental strength.
However, when you are placed in a poor working environment this can have a profound negative effect on your mental state. This could be due to unhealthy relationships within the workplace, excessive workloads, a lack of control or even job insecurity.
Unfortunately, more women than ever are struggling to manage their workloads, as work and home life seems to be busier and more chaotic than ever.
According to the WHO a staggering 15% of all employees across the UK are estimated to have a mental health condition, as of 2019.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, this number is expected to have risen significantly.
In fact, the WHO also discovered that across the World, 12 billion days are lost each year to people having to take time off of work due to their mental health, including disorders such as depression or anxiety.
Below is a list of ways the workplace can have a significant effect on your mental health.
Burnout has become an occupational phenomenon in recent years, which intesified during the Covid-19 pandemic when people started to work more hours, usually working from home.
Many people struggle trying to manage their work-life balance these days.
This is because although working from home can be great, it can also blur the lines between work and home, making it harder to gain space and rest. Essentially, burnout is when you are exhausted trying to keep up with your workload, whether that’s at home, at work or both.
There are a number of signs that someone is burnout, including feeling excessively tired, drained, hopeless, negative towards work and colleagues, doubting yourself a lot and feeling overwhelmed.
Whilst some people who are burnout might throw themselves into their work more others might find themselves procrastinating.
2. Workplace bullying
Your relationships with your colleagues can often determine how you feel about your job and how successful at work you are.
Therefore, if you do not get along with your colleagues or there is bullying taking place, then this has the potential to have a significant negative effect on your mental health.
People work because they need the money, very few people attend work because they thoroughly enjoy spending their time there above everything else.
Therefore, if you are met with a negative environment with people who bully or harass you, then this can make you feel trapped and stuck.
Stress is one of the biggest determining factors when it comes to mental health issues. Everyone has to deal with stress of some sorts within the work environment, whether you’re serving coffee, dealing with budgets, schedules or clients.
When workloads become too much, everyone handles stress differently. Some people are able to switch off from work when they leave and others bring it home with them.
Anxiety at work is also common, with lots of people feeling anxious when in the office or presenting to colleagues. Other people might feel anxious at work because they feel trapped in a job or industry or because they don’t feel supported by colleagues or managers properly.
5. Job insecurity
Job insecurity also leads to a lot of mental health conditions, especially when you work a full-time job and have a mortgage and bills to pay, children to feed and others to look after.
When your job might not be as secure as you might hope, this can lead to a whole host of mental health issues and conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression and paranoia.
How to be mentally healthy at work
According to Mind there are a whole host of things that you can do to remain mentally happy within the workplace.
1. Managing and acknowledging your own feelings
One of the best things that you can do for your own mental health within the workplace is to listen to your emotions, thoughts and feelings. Try to manage your own emotions and workload, and accept when you need a break.
Even more so, try to put things in place before you become overwhelmed, so that you catch yourself before things get any worse.
For example, if you are starting to struggle then why not book some annual leave and treat yourself to a day off and some time to focus on yourself and your wellbeing.
2. Practice mindfulness
In addition to this, you should try to practise mindfulness on a regular basis, even when you are not necessarily struggling from mental health issues.
Mindfulness includes things such as meditation, going on walks and making yourself feel present in the here and now.
Exercising is also great for your mental health, as it improves your mood significantly. Likewise, exercising has been proven to help individuals deal with the negative effects of stress within the workplace.
So, if you are suffering from stress at work, then try to exercise regularly to help to increase the amount of dopamine and serotonin in your body.
4. Plan and organise
If you’re suffering with your mental health at work because you are struggling to keep up with your workload, then try to plan and organise your workload as much as possible.
By doing so, you will feel more on top of your workload and tasks, feeling more productive and successful on a day-to-day basis.
Simply ticking off tasks on a to-do list can have a huge impact on your mental health.
There is a wide range of tools available to help individuals to stay productive and on track with their workload. Why not try Trello or Microsoft To Do to help you stay on top of your to do list.
Understanding mental health and the law
It is worth noting that there are laws in place to protect people within the workplace who might suffer from their mental health.
The Mental Health Act tells people what their rights are when it comes to their mental health issues.
In fact, the Mental Health Act also states that mental health disorders can be classified as a disability.
Workplace rights state that if any employee is disabled then they can not be discriminated against and must make an effort to make reasonable adjustments within the workplace to accommodate this individual.
Mental health issues – signs and symptoms
There are many signs and symptoms when it comes to mental health conditions, some of which are listed below.
It is important to understand that the severity of these symptoms might differ from person to person and individuals who suffer from mental health issues might not suffer from all of the below symptoms, maybe just one or two.
- Not wanting to socialise with others
- Sudden, emotional outbursts
- Struggles with getting to sleep at night
- Weight or appetite changes
- Feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless
- Feeling excessively anxious or worried about a range of things
- Sudden changes in how you feel about family members, friends or a spouse
- Avoiding your work or other responsibilities
- Illogical thinking and not thinking straight
- Taking part in risky behaviour, such as drug or alcohol abuse
Mental health and substance abuse
More and more people are suffering from substance use disorders, especially with the increase of the cost of living.
The relationship between mental health issues and substance use disorders is always complex.
A substance use disorder is a mental health issue and condition within itself, as it has a profound effect on an individual’s brain and behaviour.
Likewise, those who suffer from substance use issues are also more likely to suffer from other mental health conditions such as anxiety, paranoia, schizophrenia and depression.
This is because drug and alcohol abuse can lead to mental health issues, and mental health issues can often drive someone to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Some workplace cultures live by the ‘work hard, play harder’ rule, which can sometimes include drug and alcohol abuse. If you are already struggling with your mental health at work, then this can often make the situation worse.