Advice for employees with mental health conditions

If you already feel under pressure, it's hard to distinguish when 'stress' begins to affect your condition, making it worse or bringing on an episode. Many of the symptoms of stress and a mental health condition are similar. The main differences are the severity and duration of the symptoms and the impact they have on your everyday life.

Most people with mental health problems are diagnosed and treated by their GP and continue to work productively. In fact, evidence shows that staying in work can be a great help to those affected.

Take action at an early stage

If you feel you have a problem, the sooner you do something about it, the better – it can stop you becoming more unwell. Line managers and colleagues can also play an important role in identifying when colleagues are behaving out of character, so it is best to be cooperative if your line manager approaches you with concerns.

Help your manager to identify problems and needs

It might be that certain tasks, work environments, times of the day or being part of a particular team are linked to your issues. If you feel you have a mental health problem, it is a good idea to raise it with your line manager, HR department or someone else in the workplace.

You could make use of scheduled meetings, appraisals or informal chats about progress that you have with your manager – these can give you both a chance to talk about any problems you have.


  • stress and mental health conditions do not affect everyone in the same way
  • your employer can make adjustments to ease your problems, but only if you give them a better understanding of your situation
  • your employer must protect you from mental health and stress at work risks in the same way they must protect you from other health and safety risks  
  • discussions can be positive – you can work out how your employer can help you

If you are returning to work after illness

Most people who have had an illness will recover and return to work. But if you have had time off sick, you should talk to your manager and agree a plan for your return to work before you come back.

You may reach a stage in your recovery when you can return to work, before you are a hundred per cent ready for 'business as usual'. This can mean you need some support or changes in your role or work to make your return easier. You should talk to your manager and work together to meet your needs. A written plan may help you both agree when you have reached the 'business as usual' stage.

If you remain unwell despite support, you should get help. Consider asking for a referral to your organisation's occupational health department, if it has one, or see your GP. It is possible that your condition is covered by the Equality Act 2010, which requires your employer to make reasonable adjustments to help you get back into work. But if you don't discuss these issues honestly, your manager is unlikely to be able to help you.

If you are going through a hard time and would like to talk to someone, there are organisations that can help – our Useful links page has more information.

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Updated: 2024-01-22