Mental health in the workplace

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It's widely reported that mental ill health will affect one in four people at some point in their working lives.

People with mental health problems frequently suffer discrimination in the workplace and unemployment affects those with long-term mental health disorders more than any other group of disabled people.

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

The mental health charity Mind found:

  • 30 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’
  • 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don't feel they have the right training or guidance.

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, not only benefiting the individuals concerned, but also having a positive impact on the diversity of the workforce and the experience the NHS is able to offer patients. 

Mental health is one of the key reasons for sickness absence within the NHS. The Mental Health Foundation states that:

  • 1 in 6.8 people are experience mental health problems in the workplace
  • evidence suggests that 12.7 per cent of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.

Ensuring staff are supported and cared for with their mental ill health is paramount. The NHS Health and Wellbeing framework encourages NHS organisations to ensure that prevention and self-management is available for all staff by taking the following actions.

Create a healthy and supportive working environment

  • The organisation’s culture does not stigmatise people with mental ill health and actively encourages people to maintain good mental health and feel able to talk about it. 
  • Line managers have training and support to assist staff who disclose a mental health issue.
  • Working conditions promote good mental health.
  • Policies and practices are embedded that encourage a good work/life balance.
  • Access to taking regular breaks.

Upskill staff and line managers

  • Staff and line managers have access to information about how to improve their own and others' mental health and wellbeing through self-management. 
  • Training for line managers covers how they can promote the mental health and wellbeing and be aware of the signs and symptoms of poor mental health.
  • Training or advice is available on making reasonable adjustments for mental health e.g. changes work hours, temporary redeployment.

Staff have access to interventions

  • peer support
  • stress management exercises
  • mindfulness
  • physical activity
  • sleep advice. 

Access the full NHS Health and Wellbeing framework for more information on how you can support your staff to feel well, healthy and happy at work.

Further information

Supporting workplace mental health  Web pages  Our supporting workplace mental health web pages help managers provide support to their staff. 
Mental health in the workplace  Podcast Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, speaking to Helen Bogan, programme lead for health and wellbeing at NHS Employers, about the importance of mental health in the workplace.
Why mental health in the workplace matters  Blog Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, shares five reasons why mental health in the workplace matters and how Mind support people to stay mentally well.
Sickness Absence Toolkit  Toolkit Online support tool for line managers providing guidance on mental health related sickness absence. 
Access to Work Mental Health Support Service Support Service This free Mental Health Support Service is funded by the Department of Work and Pensions to support employees with a mental health condition that makes it difficult to do their job. Support is also available for employers on how to improve staff mental wellbeing at work. 

Reducing the risk of suicide


Crisis management in the event of a suicide


Public Health England, Business in the Community and the Samaritans have joined forces to produce useful toolkits for employers.

These toolkits help employers take action around suicide prevention and support them when responding to the death of an employee caused by suicide. They include advice on steps employers can take to help their teams and providing them with the tools and support they need to prevent suicides. 

Mental health toolkit  Toolkit This toolkit from Business in the Community for employers will help take positive actions to build a culture that champions good mental health and provides a greater understanding of how to help those who need more support.
Thriving at work – The Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health of employers   Report This extensive report includes recommendations employers can adopt regardless of their workplace type or size.
Mental Health at Work 2018  Toolkit Funded by The Royal Foundation as part of their Heads Together campaign, Mind created the mental health at work tool. The tool covers a range of resources and examples from different organisations including businesses, charities and the government.
Men’s mental health and work – The case for a gendered approach to policy, 2018  Report

Written by The Work Foundation and supported by financial grants from the British Safety Council and NAPP Pharmaceuticals Ltd, this report assesses the changes in recent decades that have influenced men’s role in the workplace and what impact it has on health and more importantly, how to address it.  

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