Sustaining Employment with Mental Health Issues

 24th Apr 2017

One in four adults in the UK experience mental health problems each year.

That’s approximately 14million people, every year, struggling with a diagnosable mental health issue.

Admittedly the term mental health issue is very much catch-all and covers those experiencing anxiety attacks all the way through to enduring and complex mental health conditions who require ongoing support or treatment.

Of these 14million adults, 10.8million of them are of an employable age. With 5.5 million businesses in the UK with multiple employees, that’s roughly 2 employees per business with mental health issues.

The reality is that number is much higher in the average sized small or medium enterprise business.

For some those challenges may be minor and relatively manageable. For others each day can be a real challenge. If you suffer with extreme anxiety then you will know how difficult just making it through the day without a major attack can be.

Unfortunately these challenges can make staying in a job difficult either because the individual struggles to cope and resigns, or erratic work performance and/or poor attendance record makes their employment unsustainable for the employer.


So what can you do if you have mental health issues to sustain your employment?

Be Honest

This can be easier said than done, especially if you have issues surrounding anxiety, feelings of vulnerability or worthlessness. But being up front with your employer about your challenges (and what you’re doing about it) helps them understand and may well answer some questions for them.

Because of the stigma attached to mental health, this can feel more complicated if you’re established in your role and your mental health issues are a recent development. Don’t let how you think people perceive you keep you from speaking up.

Don’t forget, none of us are mind readers so whilst our struggles may seem abundantly clear to us, externally we could just appear moody, emotional or unpredictable. Not great employee material on the face of it.

However, if our employer is aware of the situation then they can work with you to make a plan that balances your needs and the needs of your role. It could be that you’re allowed to work from home some of the time, if your role can support that or adjust your working hours or pattern when working from home isn’t an option.

Whilst it’s easy to assume that our employers don’t care, they’ve hired you for a reason so keeping you happy, healthy and engaged is actually in their best interests.

Be Honest with Yourself

Ambition is good. In fact, a lot of what we do, along with various therapy models, is goal orientated. It’s good to set your sights on things you want from life.

However, if your ambitions put you in a position where your mental health is being compromised or exacerbating an existing issue, then it may be time for a rethink.

Whilst being a high powered executive making high six figures may seem like a good idea on paper, the reality could be something quite different and ultimately detrimental to your health.

Instead of focusing on achievements in the traditional sense, focus on life goals.

Identify what you really want from life (try to avoid the materialistic things like piles of cash or a flashy car) and figure out how to achieve them.

Equally, if you’re having a bad day – and we all have them – be honest with yourself (and your employer) and acknowledge it.

That could mean you need to take the morning off to get yourself together. It could mean an emergency day of leave. It could mean working from home when you were due to come in or if you’re a shift worker, seeing if you can rearrange your shift.

Either way, honesty is the key because acknowledging the problem means  you’re in a position to do something about it.

Whatever you do, don’t just say you’re sick. It’s disingenuous and damages the relationship between you and your employer.

Get Support

If you’re in a position where you need to speak to your employer then it’s equally likely that you’re experiencing challenges severe enough that it’s impacting on your day to day life.

If this is the case then it’s a good idea to see what services are available to you in your local area be it CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), counselling or support groups.

Recognise that you’re at the start of a process that can take a little (or a long) while to resolve and as such you need to be compassionate to yourself and understand that there are good days and bad days.

If you’re mental health issues are particularly severe you may need ongoing support.

If you are concerned about your mental health or you’re struggling with employment  as a result of anxiety then contact your local GP.  That’s the first stepping stone to getting support.

If you feel you need dedicated support and live in the Dorset areas we may be able to help you. Get in touch today to find out more.

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