Many employers feel challenged by the prospect of dealing with staff with mental health problems. Its important to remember that Mental Health problems can happen to any of us. In the same way that physical health and illness affects us all, our mental health also fluctuates. It’s normal to experience some periods of ill health, and managers should treat mental illness with the same approach they would a physical one.
One effective way of supporting staff with Mental Health problems is to become informed.
‘Mind’ produce comprehensive and quality information about a range of Mental Illness and other issues related to mental health. Their website is a great place to get started if you are trying to learn more about Mental Illness. http://www.mind.org.uk/help/information_and_advice?signpost
Here we’ve listed some of the more common Mental health problems and mental Illnesses, and provided some links where you can seek further information.
The Shift line managers resource provides the following information about stress:
A useful definition of work-related stress is provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work”.
A certain level of pressure in a business environment is desirable. Pressure helps to motivate people and will boost their energy and productivity levels. But when the pressure people face exceeds their ability to cope with it, it becomes a negative rather than a positive force – in other words, stress. People can also feel stressed when they are bored, under-valued or under stimulated.
Stress is not a medical condition but research shows that prolonged exposure to stress is linked to psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression.
The effect of pressure on any employee will be influenced by a variety of factors including support systems at home and work, personality and coping mechanisms. What may be too much pressure for one person at a specific time may not be for the same person at a different time or for another person.
Mind offer the following information on the Early signs of Mental distress
“Mental distress covers a range of experiences that seriously limit an individual's ability to cope with day-to-day living. One person in four will have some form of mental health problem, according to some estimates, and for as many as one in fifty, it will be serious. Although figures and definitions vary, what is clear is that millions of people in the UK will encounter problems themselves, or know someone else who does.
The kinds of problems include:
“The first signs of mental distress will be different for the onlooker than it is for the person in distress. When someone's mood starts changing, for instance, it may take some time for them to become aware of it; people around them may be much more conscious of the difference.
Changes in sleep patterns are a common sign, and appetite may also be affected. Lethargy, low energy levels, feeling antisocial and spending too much time in bed may indicate the onset of depression. Wanting to go out more, needing very little sleep, and feeling highly energetic, creative and sociable, may signal that a person is becoming 'high'.”
For more information on this topic, please refer to the full article.
Mind gives the following information about depression and anxiety:
In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life, but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, major depression (clinical depression) can be life-threatening, because it can make people suicidal or simply give up the will to live.
At least one person in every six becomes depressed in the course of their lives. One in 20 is clinically depressed. Anyone can be affected, and it’s important to take symptoms seriously and not to dismiss them as an inevitable part of growing up or growing old. By recognising and treating the symptoms and getting help, it’s possible to overcome depression, and prevent it coming back.
There's no one cause of depression; it varies very much from person to person and can occur through a combination of factors. Although depression doesn't seem to be inherited through genes (with the possible exception of manic depression), some of us are more prone to depression than others. This could be because of the way we're made, or because of our experiences or family background.
Some factors which may trigger or impact on depression include life experiences, underactive thyroid, poor diet and physical ill-health.
The following link can provide more detailed information about depression including signs and symptom:
People who are depressed are often very anxious. It's not clear whether the anxiety leads into the depression or whether the depression causes the anxiety. A person feeling anxious may have a mind full of busy, repetitive thoughts, which make it hard to concentrate, relax, or sleep. They may have physical symptoms, such as headaches, aching muscles, sweating and dizziness. It may cause physical exhaustion and general ill health
The following descriptions are provided by the NIMHE – the former national body for mental health.
Doctors describe chronic fear, tension and panic attacks as ‘anxiety states’. The condition becomes defined as an illness when it becomes an individuals main experience and stops them getting on with everyday activities.
Follow this link to Mind’s website for a more detailed description of Anxiety:
Some people experience profound changes in their mood, which can switch from depression and lethargy to periods of elation and over-activity. Doctors call this ‘bi-polar’ or ‘manic-depression’. Some people may move from depression to elation and back in a week, while others may go through this cycle once a year or less often.
Rethink can provide more detailed information about BiPolar disorder http://www.rethink.org/about_mental_illness/mental_illnesses_and_disorders/bipolar_disorder/
Dementia is caused by a slowly advancing form of brain damage, although the cause is often unknown. A person with dementia may become forgetful initially and extremely anxious and confused as the disease progresses. Twenty percent of people over 80 suffer from dementia.
Dementia UK can provide more information about Dementia http://www.dementiauk.org/information-support/about-dementia/
Starving to the extent of severe, sometimes life threatening slimness is diagnosed as ‘anorexia nervosa’. Compulsive eating and vomiting is known as ‘bulimia nervosa’. Both behaviour patterns are often a way of coping with psychological or emotional problems.
BEAT – The leading UK charity for eating disorders can provide more detailed information on the different eating disorders :
Psychiatrists use the term ‘psychosis’ when someone is unable to distinguish clearly between what is real and what is imaginary, or what is external or internal to their own thought processes.
Mind’s description of a psychotic episode may provide further information:
The popular understanding of the term, as describing a Jekyll and Hyde split personality is not true. Doctors use the term ‘schizophrenia’ to describe a state of mind in which people’s sense of their own identity, thoughts and perceptions go beyond the range of normal experience. People who hear voices, for example, or believe that they are being persecuted by other people may be diagnosed as having schizophrenia.
Rethink can provide more detailed information about Schizophrenia: