What is Mental Health?
Mental health refers to how we think, feel and behave. It is common to all of us and can be described as a state in which we are able to cope with the ‘normal’ stresses of everyday life, while being able to work productively, interact well with colleagues and customers and generally make a valuable contribution at work. To ensure NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) can provide as much support as possible.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. You cannot have one without the other.
Mental health is not a fixed state of being. It is a continuum, ranging from having good mental health to poor mental health, and from having no diagnosis to a diagnosis of severe mental ill-health. A person will vary in their position along this continuum at different points in their life.
A person in good mental health will feel in control of their emotions, have good cognitive functioning and positive interactions with people around them. This state allows a person to perform well at work, in their studies, and in family and other social relationships.
Mental ill-health covers any conditions that affect a persons’ state of mind.
One in four of you will experience a mental health issue in any given year.
Between one in five and one in six working age adults is depressed, anxious or experiencing stress-related problems at any one time.
Throughout the course of your life it is highly likely that you will either develop mental ill-health yourself or have close contact with someone who does.
Mental ill-health can manifest in different ways. Some employees may suffer with no physical side effects, while others may experience physical symptoms (e.g. increased blood pressure, lethargy, changes in eating habits).
Common mental ill-health conditions include:
- Mood disorders, e.g. depression
Less common mental ill-health conditions include:
- Personality disorders
- Eating disorders
- Bipolar disorder
A mental health condition can be considered a disability if it has / is likely to have a long-term (more than 12 months) effect on your ability to complete normal day-to-day activities, such as using a computer, getting dressed for work, working set shift patterns, or interacting with people. If this is the case, you are protected by the Equality Act 2010, your manager must make reasonable adjustments for you, and you must not be disadvantaged or discriminated against compared to non-disabled colleagues.
Whilst stress is not a mental health condition or an illness, there are strong links between stress and mental ill-health
Factors that can cause or exacerbate mental ill-health
You may experience mental health issues for various reasons that NHSBT cannot control, for example, hereditary factors, relationship issues, health issues, late nights, housing issues, debt, social isolation, sexuality, acute life events, abuse in childhood, traumatic events, or substance misuse.
But, there could also be work-related reasons for mental health problems, including, job insecurity, excessive pressure, work-life imbalance, lack of appreciation, hostile workplace conditions, unsatisfactory job or workload, unpleasant relationships with colleagues or managers.
Signs and symptoms of mental ill-health in the workplace
Some signs to look for in yourself or others. It is a change in behaviours which are ‘normal’ to yourself or others which it is key to notice.
It is also important to note that these signs and symptoms may be unrelated to mental ill-health, so do not make assumptions.
- Not getting things done – missing deadlines or forgetting tasks;
- Erratic or unacceptable behaviour;
- Irritability, aggression, tearfulness;
- Complaining about lack of management support;
- Being fixated with fair treatment;
- Complaining about the workload;
- Being withdrawn and not participating in conversations or out-of-work activities;
- Increased consumption of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and / or sedatives;
- Inability to concentrate;
- Difficulty remembering things;
- Loss of confidence;
- Unplanned absences;
- Arguments / conflicts with others;
- Being quick to use grievance procedures;
- Increased errors and / or accidents;
- Taking on too much work and volunteering for every new project;
- Being adamant they are right;
- Working too many hours – first in / last out, emailing out of hours or whilst on holiday;
- Being louder or more exuberant than usual.
- Constant tiredness;
- Sickness absence;
- Being run down and frequent minor illnesses;
- Difficulty sleeping;
- Weight loss or gain;
- Lack of care over appearance;
- Gastrointestinal disorders;
- Rashes / eczema.
Self-Care (what you can do to help yourself)
If you feel your mental health starting to suffer there are several things that you can do to help yourself:
- Contact your mental health practitioner and / or follow your Care Plan (if you already have one);
- Contact your GP;
- Speak to your manager and tell them what is wrong;
- Contact the Employee Assistance Programme;
- Contact a Mental Health Wellbeing Champion.
Other things that you can do to help keep yourself feeling well are as follows:
- Stay active – physical activity not only keeps your body healthy, it also has a big effect on your mind. Exercise creates endorphins which make you feel good. Find an activity that you enjoy, whether it’s walking, running, swimming, dancing or gardening, as long as it is appropriate to your mobility and fitness, and build it into your everyday life.
- Connect with others – connecting with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours is essential to your wellbeing. Investing in these relationships will make you feel valued and supported.
- Take notice – being aware of the world around you and what you are feeling is central to helping you to appreciate life and what matters to you.
- Keep learning – try something new, return to an old hobby, sign up for a course. Doing things which stretch your mind and challenge you can be stimulating, enjoyable and confidence boosting.
- Give – there are strong connections between the act of doing something nice for others and your own happiness. Volunteering your time, fundraising, saying thank you, or even just smiling at someone in the street can help to increase your wellbeing.
- Improve your lifestyle choices – stop smoking, reduce the amount of alcohol and caffeine you consume, stay away from other substances. These all may make you feel good in the short-term, but they only mask the problem and do not help you to make anything better in the long-term. Eating healthily will also help to feed your brain and make it easier to think more clearly.
Line Manager Master Classes
This masterclass is designed with line managers in mind, to give them some hints and tips on what mental health is, how it can affect people in the workplace and what they could and should do to support their team. It is approximately 30 minutes long and has audio to support the slides, so please have your headphones to hand