Mental Health

A culture of fear and silence around mental health is costly to employers. One in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point. While mental health problems are common, most are mild, tend to be short-term and are normally successfully treated, with medication, by a GP. 

Mental health has been in the headlines recently. An estimated 55% of time of work due to ill health is down to mental health issues. It can affect people in so many ways and is caused by so many reasons. I am not an expert on mental health, normally I concentrate on Positive Safety Culture which can have a positive affect on Mental Health. One of my colleagues champions Mental Health and is always willing to advise. 

In this article I will discuss how it can be affected by Health and Safety issues but more importantly I will pass my experiences with mental health on to you, again I am happy to discuss this with anyone. I was first diagnosed with depression about 7 years ago. I had not realised how bad I had got, it had crept up on me, slowly building up until one day I basically cracked and broke down. The family had realised, but had been walking on egg shells for quite a while. I was not suicidal, I just couldn't cope with what were my expectations anymore. 

Health problems with both daughters and my wife, school problems, problems with moral at work, no pay rise for a number of years, my perceived unfairness that as a higher earner I was being treated by the governments, perceived lack of support at home with work around the house etc. The weight of the world seemed on me. I had reached rock bottom however, unknowingly I had done the best thing, I had recognised I had a problem and needed help. 

Unfortunately it is the one thing men are not good at! I saw my doctor and opened up fully to the family. I was put on tablets, the family helped and after a while things seemed to be under control and were for a year or so. Unfortunately a year or so later conditions got worse at work, along with a few deaths within a month, my god mother, my father and a friend since childhood, supporting my mother with dealing with all the funeral, legal and general admin stuff associated with a death. Once again I was struggling, the doctor increased my tablets and I asked for counselling. Unfortunately the counselling through the NHS was going to be at least 6 months wait, I wasn't prepared to wait that long, I needed help now.

Fortunately my employer had an employee support scheme, I contacted them, explained my problem and had telephone counselling arranged within a week or so. The counselling took place weekly with each session lasting about an hour. I think I had 8 sessions in all. I found them fantastic, the lady at the other end new her stuff and had me opening up in no time. It turned out that a lot of my problems actually preceded the time I was first diagnosed. By discussing everything with the counsellor, letting it all out, along with her sound advice, tips and suggested coping mechanisms I came out from a gloomy place. I needed to work at it but after a short time and with consultation with the doctor I had my medication reduced back to 1 tablet. I had quarterly appointments with the doctor for a while but now it's only if I need to see them. I accept that i will probably be on an antidepressant tablet continuously, that's mainly to control the chemical imbalance. 

I feel in such a good place now, I still have wee bad periods of feeling down, I call them pot holes. I still use the coping mechanisms to this day including a couple of good friends who are my contact any time day or night to talk friends. Mental health is about how we think, feel and behave. Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems. They are often a reaction to a difficult life event, such as bereavement, but can also be caused by work-related issues. Whether work is causing the health issue or aggravating it, employers have a legal responsibility to help their employees. 

Work-related mental health issues must to be assessed to measure the levels of risk to staff. Where a risk is identified, steps must be taken to remove it or reduce it as far as reasonably practicable. Work can has a negative impact on your mental health. This could be because of: • workplace stress • poor relations with your colleagues • the type of work you're doing • experiencing stigma, or being treated unfairly because of your mental health problem • being unsure whether to tell your boss and colleagues about your mental health problem • worrying about returning to work after a period of poor mental health. 

Many people find going to work is good for their mental health. It can help you look after your mental health by providing: • a source of income • a sense of identity • contact and friendship with others • a steady routine and structure • opportunities to gain achievements and contribute 

There is help out there but first of all you have to recognise you have a mental health issue. The first and most important help is through your doctor and the NHS. They have knowledge of numerous organisations which depending on requirements are there to help. Lots of employers now have schemes in place to support the employees as do unions and work associations. There a several charities and organisations who are also there to help