What is mental health?

Mental health is about how you feel, think and behave. It isn't something people can see. It involves your mood, happiness and levels of anxiety and stress.

Having good mental health is crucial for us all.

But mental health problems are common. They include:

  • anxiety
  • burnout
  • depression
  • eating disorders
  • phobias
  • stress
  • obsessions.

Many mental health problems are mild, short-term and treatable.

A problem can build up over time or be triggered after something happens. It's important that we recognise a problem when it appears.

But some people live with mental health problems for a long time - or even their whole life.

Poor mental health can be classed as a disability. It's considered a disability if it has a long-term effect on your normal activities. Your condition is long term if it lasts, or is likely to last, at least 12 months.

Responsibilities of employers

The workplace can be a source of mental health problems. Sometimes it can worsen problems that already exist.

Employers have a legal responsibility to look after the people they employ.

If an employee has a mental health problem, their employer must take it seriously. They must act when it is necessary.

Employers should make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to support people who have problems at work.

It's illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee because of a disability.

What to do if you think you've got a mental health problem

If the way you think, feel or behave is having an impact on you and the people around you, speak to a doctor who can offer you advice.

If you are experiencing a mental health problem at work, you can speak to your manager or HR team about it. But you are not required to do so. Mental health can be difficult to talk about.

Your employer has a responsibility to support you and could:

  • change your working hours
  • change how you do your job
  • change where you do your job
  • give you specialist equipment
  • help your colleagues to understand you better
  • help to build your confidence
  • offer you a phased return to work if you've been off.

And, if you need any extra help with a mental health condition that makes it hard for you to do your job, you can apply to the Access to Work scheme on GOV.UK.

There are also steps you can take to stay healthy at work:

  • talk about how you feel with others
  • ask for help if you need it
  • take regular breaks
  • keep active
  • eat well
  • limit your alcohol intake
  • get enough and proper sleep.

If you feel you've been the victim of discrimination due to a mental health problem, you could have a claim at an employment tribunal.

Talk to your employer first. If that fails, seek legal advice.

During Covid-19

According to a survey, more than half the people in the UK felt worried, stressed or anxious because of Covid-19.

Many people have been worried about their health, income and social isolation. Some have been concerned about friends and family members.

Even if you are working from home or on furlough, your employer still owes a duty of care to you.

Employers should keep in touch with their staff regularly. They should check in with them and encourage them to share any fears or worries they have.

A good work-life balance has become even more important as people work from home. Try to do things you enjoy and keep in touch with friends and family.

Need help?

Try these sources of help and information: