At present, the mental health at work message has been more targeted to wellbeing and a maintenance of good mental health, which means that a lack of information or knowledge around mental illness has been created.

This is important because there are people in your place of work who could be living with difficulties and not speaking about them.

Here are a couple of statistics to support some reasons for this.

  • 9% of employees who presented with symptoms of poor mental health experienced “disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal”- The Mental Health at Work Report, compiled by Business in the Community
  • People with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition. This equates to 300,000 people – the equivalent of the population of Newcastle or Belfast. – Stevenson D, Farmer P. Thriving at work: The Independent Review of Mental Health and Employers [Internet]. 2017

It is important at this stage to have a conversation and build an understanding around the differences between Mental Health and Mental Illness which I am hoping will break down some stigma when approaching this delicate subject.

The WHO definition of Mental Health is:

“Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.”

Mental Illness definition as defined by

“Mental illnesses can be associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities and or a disorder diagnosed by a medical professional that significantly interferes with an individual’s cognitive, emotional, or social abilities.”

What can we do?

Mental health is something that we all have but mental illness is not and so it is important to take this into account when you are setting your mental health and wellbeing agenda.

Make sure that you are having conversations that are inclusive. Do not be afraid to have deeper thinking sessions and conversations around how you will support everybody in the organisation when required. Because only then can we make a real difference to people’s lives.

Further reading: