Supporting Mental Health at Work

The focus of Mental Health Awareness Week this year is stress (Mental Health Foundation, 2018). Whilst stress is not a mental health disorder, research shows that prolonged stress is linked to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression (Khan, 2017).

We know that mental ill health can have a serious negative impact on the individuals affected, the team in which they work, and the wider organisation in terms of lost productivity and profitability.

Employers already know they have various legal obligations to identify, prevent and to protect through addressing any problems with work-related stress which may be impacting on the health of those working within their organisation. These are set out in Health and Safety at Work Legislation, Equality Legislation and in Common Law. (Hamilton, 2010)

With mental health problems affecting 1 in 4 adults, mental ill health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK and accounts for 70 million lost working days. Poor mental health is estimated to cost UK employers up to £42 billion each year with over half the cost reflecting presenteeism (when individuals are less productive due to poor mental health in work). (NHS England, 2017; Davies, 2013; Monitor Deloitte, 2017; Stevenson & Farmer, 2017)

In 2017, the Prime Minister requested that Paul Farmer & Dennis Stevenson undertake an independent review into how employers can better support the mental health of all people currently in employment. Within the subsequently published “Thriving at Work” review, a number of recommendations were made. The most important recommendation is that all employers, regardless of size or industry, should adopt “mental health core standards” that lay basic foundations for an approach to workplace mental health. These core standards include developing mental health awareness among employees and promoting effective people management, ensuring managers and supervisors receive training and support to be confident in spotting signs of distress. All employers are recommended to consider training which provides practical examples and is tailored to the specific practices of the organisation. (Stevenson & Farmer, 2017)

The benefits of implementing such an intervention can include: • Improved workplace morale; • healthier, happier and increasingly satisfied employees; • reduction in presenteeism and absenteeism; • increased productivity; • return on investment; • protection from reputational damage and the costs of litigation. (Mills et al, 2007; Knapp, McDaid & Parsonage, 2011; Health and Safety Executive 2008; Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health 2007; NICE, 2009; Stevenson & Farmer, 2017)

It’s not an easy issue to tackle. Spotting signs of mental ill health in the workplace can be extremely difficult when, through fear of being stigmatised, staff will often disguise the problem or not even acknowledge it to themselves. The answer is to empower the people in your organisation to protect both themselves and your organisation through training them to: • Prevent mental health problems – be aware of risk factors and protective factors; • promote positive mental health and wellbeing; • spot signs in themselves and their colleagues of work related stress and various mental ill health conditions; • intervene early and know how to seek the right support, in the right place, at the right time; • support recovery and take steps to support positive mental health, prevent relapse and enhance safety.

Ultimately, we all have mental health and it’s important for us to understand how we can look after it, protect it and act to seek support at times of difficulty. It’s important to see mental ill health as no different from physical ill health, to have a healthy attitude to talking about mental health and not to stigmatise those experiencing problems. A whole organisation approach to training is recommended on this basis.

Mental Health Awareness Week provides a great opportunity to raise awareness but more importantly, it’s the perfect time for organisations to commit to taking real and positive action over the year ahead to support positive mental health and wellbeing and to tackle the challenges mental ill health can present.

For more information about the online and face to face training Team Mental Health provide please access our website

Dr Libby Artingstall

Co-Founder & Director Team Mental Health

Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist


Davies, S. (2013) Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer, Public Mental Health Priorities: Investing in the Evidence. Department of Health. Available at: (Accessed May 2018)

Farmer, P & Stevenson, D. (2017) Thriving at Work: The Stevenson / Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers. Available at: (Accessed May 2018)

Hamilton, J. (2010) Work-related stress, what the law says. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Available at (Accessed May 2018)

Hampson, E & Siegel, S. (2017) Mental Health and Employers: The Case for Investment. Monitor Deloitte. Available at (Accessed May 2018)

Health and Safety Executive (2008) Management standards for work-related stress and Pricewaterhouse Coopers (2008) Building the case for wellness.

Khan, S & Khan, R. (2017) Chronic Stress leads to Anxiety and Depression. Annals of Psychiatry and Mental Health 5(1): 1091.

Knapp, M., McDaid, D., & Parsonage, M. (2011). Mental Health Promotion and Mental Illness Prevention: The Economic Case. Available at Accessed April 2017

Mental Health Foundation. (2018) Mental Health Awareness Week. Mental Health Foundation. Available at (Accessed May 2018)

Mills P , Kessler R, Cooper J, Sullivan S (2007). Impact of a health promotion program on employee health risks and work productivity. American Journal of Health Promotion 22:45–53.

NICE (2009). Mental wellbeing at work. National Institute of Health and Care Excellence. Available at: (Accessed April 2018)

NHS England (2017). Mental Health: Adults. NHS England. Available at: (Accessed May 2018)

Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health (2007) Mental health at work: developing the business case. Policy paper 8. London: Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.

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