Stress & mental health

woman in distress

23 / 3 / 2012

We have produced a range of advice for NHS organisations on employment issues related to the mental ill health of staff.

As the largest public sector employer in the UK, the NHS can make a significant contribution to combating discrimination against people with mental health problems.

This will not only benefit the individuals concerned, but can also have a positive impact on the diversity of the workforce and the experience the NHS is able to offer patients. Find out more on our Open your mind website.

People with mental health problems frequently suffer discrimination in the workplace and unemployment affects those with long-term mental disorders more than any other group of disabled people. Equality legislation makes it unlawful to discriminate against people with mental health problems

Mental ill health – a definition

The term mental ill health covers harmful levels of stress, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder (manic depression), psychosis, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and is often associated with drug and alcohol abuse and eating disorders (e.g. anorexia nervosa and bulimia).

World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day is 10 October each year and we encourage trusts to mark the day by holding events and distributing literature on stigma and working with those suffering mental ill health. Further details are available on the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) website.

Mental health and employment

Our mental health and employment in the NHS document provides advice to managers and occupational health professionals on how to improve current practice on employing people with mental ill health issues, to manage those in service who develop problems and finally on how to encourage mental ill health sufferers into training.


The Healthcare Commission’s 2007 staff survey found that 33 per cent of staff questioned said they had felt unwell because of work-related stress over the past 12 months.

We have produced advice on managing stress at work, including resources like leaflets and posters. See our Open your mind web pages for more information.  

NHS Employers is supporting NHS organisations tackling stress by:

  • Supporting managers in identifying and managing the causes and effects of stress in the NHS workforce
  • Helping to minimise the levels of stress in the NHS workforce and its impact on the lives of staff and healthcare delivery
  • Reducing the personal and financial impact of workplace stress on staff.  

The Partnership for Occupational Safety and Health in Healthcare (POSHH) commissioned Zeal to carry out research into the causes of stress in the NHS workplace and to:

  • Work with NHS organisations and particularly their employees to identify causes and their potential remedies
  • To identify causes which are common to all types of trusts
  • To identify the potential for further work that could be undertaken to develop remedies for rolling out to all trusts

This work has been ongoing for the past two years and an interim report has been published. Read the interim report. NB this will be updated on receipt of the final report.

Further work is ongoing and we anticipate that the project will be completed in the spring after which the final findings will be made available on this website.

Open your mind

NHS Employer's Open your mind campaign aims to raise awareness of the stigma associated with mental health issues in the workplace and to encourage employers in the NHS to increase the numbers of people who suffer from severe mental health issues who are employed within the service. Visit the Open your mind microsite.  

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