About Mental Health

Information taken from BITC – Mental Health toolkit

What do we mean by mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and act. Staying in positive mental health allows people to:

  • Realise their full potential
  • Cope with the pressures of life
  • Work productively
  • Have positive relationships
  • Make good choices

Being in good mental health is important to individuals, organisations and society, and adopting approaches that help keep us in good health, and being resilient to the pressures of life, is essential.  Mental health, like physical health, can fluctuate on a spectrum from good to poor. Mental health problems can affect any of us irrespective of age, personality or background. They can appear as a result of experiences in both our personal and working lives – or they can just happen.

The fact is that it is very common, but some people still find it difficult to talk about. It can seem too personal or complex, and there is still a stigma associated with mental health problems. You might feel very happy to tell a colleague about a physical injury you’ve sustained, but when it comes to changes in your mental health, people can keep this to themselves through fear of being treated differently or judged.

It is important to create a culture in every business that promotes positive mental health and helps prevent people from experiencing mental ill health or helps them better manage mental health problems. One of the key ways to do this is to ensure everyone can talk about mental health but maintaining good mental health is also assisted by many factors, including having clear job roles, responsive line managers, a healthy approach to diet and exercise, and many other factors.

However, even with the most robust preventative plans, it is likely some people will still experience mental health problems, for a range of factors, so it is also essential for every business to know how to provide support. This might include knowing how to spot the early warning signs, being confident to signpost colleagues to appropriate support, how to make adjustments to someone’s work or role, and ensuring there is a process to help people return to work smoothly after a sickness absence.

Understanding key terms

Mental Health

Mental health is a state of mental and psychological wellbeing in which everyone realises their own potential, and can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to their community.

Wellbeing

Wellbeing is defined by the Department of Health and Social Care as feeling good and functioning well and comprises each individual’s experience of their life and a comparison of life circumstances with social norms and values. Wellbeing can be both subjective and objective.

Mental wellbeing

Mental wellbeing, as defined by Mind, describes a dynamic mental state. An individual with good mental wellbeing is able to: • feel relatively confident in themselves and have positive self-esteem • feel and express a range of emotions • build and maintain good relationships with others • feel engaged with the world in general • live and work productively • cope with the stresses of daily life, including work-related stress • adapt and manage in times of change and uncertainty.

Work-related stress

Work-related stress is the response people may have when presented with demands and pressures that are not matched to their abilities, leading to an inability to cope, especially when employees feel they have little support from supervisors and little control over work processes.

Presenteeism

Presenteeism is defined as attending work whilst ill and therefore not performing at full ability. Presenteeism can be both positive and negative and be due to a variety of factors.

Organisations that take a positive, proactive approach to mental health can benefit from:

  • Attracting the best talent
  • More engaged and motivated staff
  • Retaining staff, less turnover
  • Reduction in absence, presenteeism
  • Improved professional reputation.

Under stress or feeling the pressure?

A certain level of pressure in a business environment is desirable. Pressure can help to motivate people and may boost their energy and productivity levels but when pressure exceeds people’s ability to cope – and particularly when there is no respite – it can become a negative rather than a positive force – in other words, it can lead to unmanageable stress.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them’. It is important to understand what pressures your employees are under and ensure this doesn’t lead to stress.

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