If you already feel under pressure, it’s hard to distinguish when that ‘stress’ turns into a ‘mental health problem’ and when an existing mental health problem becomes aggravated by stress at work.
Many of the symptoms of stress and a mental health condition are similar; the key differences are in the severity and duration of the symptoms and the impact they have on your everyday life. The majority of people with mental health problems are diagnosed and treated by their GP and most continue to work productively. In fact, evidence shows that staying in work can be of great benefit to those affected.
If you feel you have a problem the earlier you take action the better; early action can help prevent you becoming more unwell. Line managers and colleagues can also play a key role in identifying when you are behaving out of character, so be co-operative if your line manager approaches you.
It might be that certain tasks, work environments, times of the day or being part of a particular team is associated with your difficulties, If you feel you are having a problem raise it with your line manager, HR or someone else in the workplace. You could make use of the scheduled meetings, appraisals or informal chats about progress that you have with your manager; these may provide neutral opportunities to find out about and discuss any problems you have.
If you have had time off sick, you should discuss the how you can return to work and integrate in advance of any return date. A documented plan that helps you both to agree when you have reached the stage of ‘business as usual’ can be valuable.
If you remain unwell despite support then you should seek appropriate help, consider asking to be referred to the organisation’s occupational health department if it has one or see your GP.
Most people who have had an illness will recover but there will be a stage during your rehabilitation when you will return to work with some remnant of your ongoing mental health problems. This may mean that you need some support or changes in your role or work to make the return easier. You should talk to your manager and working together try to satisfy your needs.
It is possible that your condition may be one that is subject to the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act which may require your employer to make reasonable adjustments to help you get back into work – but if you don’t talk to your manager and discuss these issues honestly they will be less likely to be able to meet your requirements.
If you are going through a hard time and would like to talk to someone, there are a number of organisations that can help.
ANXIETY UK works to relieve and support those living with anxiety disorders by providing information, support and understanding via an extensive range of services, including 1:1 therapy services. It works regularly with external agencies and healthcare professionals to improve the service provision offered in the main to those living with anxiety disorders.
Confidential emotional support 24 hours a day
NHS Direct offer people in England and Wales medical information and advice by phone or over the internet. They can also refer callers to various self help and support organisations.
In Scotland, contact NHS 24 on 08454 24 24 24
The MindinfoLine service is run by a dedicated team of specialists, responding to more than 20,000 enquiries a year. Topics range from types of mental distress, where to get help and drug treatments, to alternative therapies, who's who in mental health services and advocacy.
Rethink's National Advice Service provides expert advice and information on issues that affect the lives of people coping with mental illness. For general enquiries about Rethink's work, please call 0845 456 0455. More information.
Support, information and advice for anyone affected by mental health problems (6pm-11pm every day.)
A new email support service, which is fully funded by The Vodafone UK Foundation. SANEmail runs alongside SANEline to provide an additional channel of support to those affected by mental health issues. Anyone can email SANEmail, but in particular, the service aims to support:
Dealing with Depression is an online forum that provides a friendly and safe place for people to share information and talk about their experiences of depression.
The Telephone Helplines Association's website lists a number of different mental health telephone services.
The Mental Health Foundation is a leading UK charity that provides information, carries out research, campaigns and works to improve services for anyone affected by mental health problems, whatever their age and wherever they live.