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Mental Health At Work

Many of us spend a large proportion of our time at work. Often, when we factor in commuting as well, it feels like we spend more time at work than we do at home, and that we see our colleagues more than we see our family. Despite this, few of us feel able to talk about our mental health at work, especially when we’re struggling.

We’re not sure of the reaction we might get from our boss, and from our colleagues. Will they judge us, or think that we’re weak? Will they think that we’re being overdramatic or attention-seeking? Will it mean that we won’t be able to get that promotion? Will we start to be excluded? Some of us feel that the risks are too great, and choose not to mention it all. We keep our head down and our mouth shut while things get worse.

Because the thing is, for most of us, we have to work. We need an income to survive, to keep our house, to support our families. We can’t always afford to take a sick day – even if we lie and say it’s for a vomiting bug, rather than for our mental health. We certainly can’t just quit, even if our mental health is at breaking point.

“As important as it is to have a plan for doing work, it is perhaps more important to have a plan for rest, relaxation, self-care, and sleep.” - Akiroq Brost

Making It Work For You

Of course, in an ideal world, we’d be able to take the time off work that we need to recover, but it’s not always possible. Instead, we need to try and make our work work for us too. We are important. We are worth looking after. Our health is valuable – just as valuable as the money we’re bringing in.

Knowledge is power – so know your rights. In the UK, employers have a duty of care towards their employees. This means that they must do all that they reasonably can to support our health, safety and wellbeing. In addition, if we have a disability – the definition of which can include mental health conditions – our employer is obligated to make reasonable adjustments for us. This could include changing our working pattern, reducing our workload or allowing us to work from home.

If we’re worried about what our colleagues might think of us if we disclose our mental health condition, we could consider this: 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. This means that it is very likely that one or more of our colleagues have also experienced mental ill-health, or be close to someone who has. Far from judging us, our openness can help prompt others to share their experiences, creating a better support system within our workplace.

It is daunting to talk about our mental health at work – there’s no getting away from it. However, we deserve to give ourselves the best possible chance to be well, and to enjoy our work. It’s such a big part of our life after all.

DEPRESSION: YOUR RIGHTS AT WORK

Different employers will have different levels of understanding when it comes to depression, so it’s good to know what our rights are.

SELF-CARE FOR WORK DAYS

We have all sorts of plans for adding self-care into our lives and make it part of our daily routine – but we don’t always consider how we can incorporate self-care into our work days too.

THINGS TO TRY WHEN DEPRESSION AFFECTS YOUR MEMORY AND CONCENTRATION

Depression can really limit our concentration and memory. It can be frustrating and disorientating (and sometimes a bit embarrassing too) – we walk into a room and can’t remember why, we leave our keys in the door, we feel like we never get anything done because we can’t remember what it is we were supposed to do.

HOW TO TACKLE AN OVERWHELMING TO-DO LIST

Much like the feeling you get when paperwork is mounting and needs to be completed, a long to-do list can evoke anxious feelings. It doesn’t seem fair really. You make a great decision, which is to clear your head a little by jotting everyday tasks onto paper, then it feels like it’s haunting you.

SELF-CARE FOR BUSY PEOPLE

When we’re busy, self-care can be one of the first things to drop off the end of the ‘to-do’ list. It’s very easy to think it’s not important and that there are other things we need to do first.

Managing Depression: Hacks and Hints for Difficult Days

When depression strikes, even the simplest of tasks can feel challenging. Activities we usually take for granted – washing, dressing, facing the day – become obstacles to overcome. Experience has shown us that although our difficult days may be unavoidable, there are some practical things we can do to help ease us through.

#BLURTCHATS: WORKPLACES: WHAT ARE THE HURDLES AND SOLUTIONS?

On the 2nd Tuesday, of every month, we’re live on Twitter at 8pm (GMT) to facilitate a conversation about a topic related to mental health. Here’s a round-up of our Twitter Chat:  Workplaces: what are the hurdles and solutions?

FREE SELF-CARE A4 PRINTABLE PLANNER

We’re all juggling lots of balls and self-care is often the one we drop first. When we schedule self-care into our lives, it helps us to prioritise it.

Getting Back To Work

Even when we’ve done all that we can to try and stay at work, we might become too ill to keep working, and need to take some time off to recover. This doesn’t make us a failure, or a loser, or worthless – or any of those other things that our mind likes to shout at us sometimes. It means, simply, that we’re not well, and that we need some time to try and get better.

When we do feel better, we might look to go back to work. We may be able to return to our old position, or we may be looking for a whole new job. Both situations can be extremely daunting, and bring a whole heap of questions: what if I can’t cope? What if it’s too soon? What if I’ve forgotten everything? What if my colleagues ask lots of questions? Should I tell my new employer about my illness? If I do tell them, when do I do it? How do I explain the gap on my CV?

All of these questions are normal. If we are returning to the same position, we’ll usually find that, within a couple of days, it’ll feel like we never left. It can help to develop a stock answer for any nosy questions, or to just change the topic – it really is no one’s business but yours and your boss’s. If we’re looking for a new position, before deciding whether to apply, or deciding what we want to disclose about our mental health, it can help to ‘suss out’ the company you’re applying to. Have they been named on any lists of good employers, or have they signed up to something like the Mental Health at Work Commitment? It’s important to remember that employers can’t make reasonable adjustments unless they know that we need them – but it can feel like a risk to disclose our mental health at all.

We know it can be daunting to try returning to work after a break, so we’ve gathered some posts together which we will hope will help.

DEPRESSION AND EMPLOYMENT: LOOKING FOR WORK:

Looking for work isn’t easy at the best of times, but it can be even harder when we’re depressed. Depression can drain our concentration, steal our confidence and zap our self-worth, which makes job-hunting a real challenge.

DEPRESSION: RETURNING TO WORK AFTER BEING SIGNED OFF:

If you’re anything like us, just coming back to work after a long weekend can send our brain into a bit of shock. After you’ve been signed off with depression, it’s easy to build up lots of apprehension about returning to the daily grind, even if you generally love your job. It’s a justified worry because depression sends your mind whizzing all over the place.

DEPRESSION: WHEN RECOVERY CAN’T BE OUR SOLE FOCUS:

In an ideal world, when we’re diagnosed with depression or any other condition, we would be able to put our entire lives on hold to prioritise our recovery. Unfortunately, the reality is that for many of us, recovery can’t be our sole focus.

COPING WITH THE FRUSTRATION OF MENTAL ILLNESS

Mental illness can be incredibly frustrating – impacting all areas of our lives and making it harder to do things that we want or have previously been able to do.

DEPRESSION: WHEN MONEY WORRIES ADD TO THE STRAIN WE ALREADY FEEL

When we have depression, the likelihood that we’ll also experience money problems is high; we are four to six times more likely to have a debt crisis if we have a mental illness. Talking about money can feel embarrassing and if we’re struggling with our finances, we may feel ashamed. Added to the shame that we may already experience with having mental ill health, it’s a heavy burden to carry.

11 WAYS WE CAN PRACTICE SELF-KINDNESS

We often talk about ‘being kind to ourselves’; but when depression has us in its grasp, it can feel hard to like ourselves enough to carry out basic self-care, never mind to show ourselves kindness. It’s even harder to practice self-kindness when we can’t think where we could start or when it feels like an alien habit, so here are a few ideas to get us going.

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.” - Mary Anne Radmacher

For Employers

Promoting positive mental health in your workplace and creating a supportive workplace culture is good for your company. According to Acas, mental ill health costs employers in the UK £30 billion every year. These costs arise through lost productivity, the cost of recruitment, and absence. Changing workplace culture isn’t always easy, and it takes time. But it will be worth it.

Staff members with positive mental health are more likely to produce good work, engage well with colleagues, and have high attendance levels. Working in a supportive environment means that staff are more likely to be able to stay in work, or return to work after an absence – avoiding the costs that come along with recruitment and long-term absence.

We know that it can be hard to know where to start though, which is why we’ve put together some resources for employers.

 

THE THINGS EMPLOYERS CAN DO TO CULTIVATE A SUPPORTIVE WORKPLACE CULTURE

When we are able to work, we spend a considerable chunk of time there. It can have a big impact on our mental health – both good and bad. Creating a supportive workplace culture is important. It’s not just the responsibility of the boss or line manager – it’s everyone’s responsibility.

DEPRESSION: WHAT EMPLOYERS CAN DO TO HELP US BACK TO WORK:

Depression can sometimes mean that we need to take sick leave from work for a while. When we’re able to return to work, there are some things our employers can do to help smooth that transition. In this post we share ways to welcome someone with depression back to work.

MENTAL HEALTH: WHY THE WORDS WE USE DO MATTER

When it comes to mental health and mental illness, language can be a very tricky landscape to navigate. There are many words and terms which are ingrained into our everyday language, which we habitually use, that can reinforce negative stereotypes, without us even realising.

13 EVERYDAY THINGS THAT MENTAL ILL-HEALTH MAKES DIFFICULT

Mental ill-health can affect every aspect of our lives, each and every day that we’re unwell. It can be hard to explain to those who’ve never experienced it quite how it can seep into everything we try to do and make everyday things seem extraordinarily difficult.

DESCRIBING DEPRESSION TO THOSE WHO’VE NEVER HAD IT

We’re able to feel empathy and compassion for those who are in physical pain, even if we’ve not experienced that exact physical pain ourselves. We can appreciate that a broken leg must hurt like hell, that childbirth must be excruciating and we can even muster up compassion for those who are heartbroken – despite not being able to ‘see’ the pain THEY feel.

So, why then, is depression so different?

 

DESCRIBING ANXIETY TO THOSE WHO’VE NEVER HAD IT

It’s often hard to translate our thoughts and feelings into words. Most people will have experienced the feeling of anxiety at some point in their lives. But feeling the emotion of anxiety now and again in response to distinct situations is quite different from living with an anxiety disorder.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” - Charles Dickens

WHERE TO GO FOR HELP

Even if you don’t feel like you can ask your boss or your colleagues for support, there are still options.

As well as the wonderful organisations we’ve listed in the ‘get support‘ section of our website, Acas provide free, impartial advice on all sorts of employment issues, as do Mental Health At Work. Your workplace may have a HR department and an occupational health scheme, whereby you can access support or counselling – the HR department don’t have to tell your supervisor or colleagues about your diagnosis. Don’t forget your GP either, who can also provide support or signpost you to other local services.

Please do try to find some help if things are difficult, it can make all of the difference.

Sending you so many good wishes,
The Blurt Team

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