Mark Lyttleton: How to Spot Mental Health Issues in the Workplace

Mark Lyttleton is an angel investor, speaker and business mentor who is keenly aware of the importance of striking a healthy work-life balance. This article will look at mental health issues in the workplace and the importance of employers putting in place frameworks to help protect the mental health of employees.

According to a report by CMI, mental health-related staff absences have skyrocketed by more than 700%. The latest NHS research suggests that psychiatric problems are now the most commonly cited reason for UK workers taking time off sick, with NHS Digital revealing that one in three sick notes are issued for mental health reasons.

In addition, research from Canada Life Group Insurance suggests that many employees are struggling with mental health issues while at work, with 18%, the equivalent of 5.8 million British workers, reporting that they have turned up for work even when feeling mentally unwell.

Poor mental health is one of the most challenging problems faced by UK businesses today. In addition to affecting the lives of employees, these issues have a variety of other important ramifications for employers. In addition to the problem of absenteeism, experts warn that the cost of presenteeism is actually far higher, with employees struggling into work even while experiencing significant psychiatric ill-health.

Against this backdrop, it is crucial for employers to put in place frameworks to support the mental health of their workers, teaching leaders, managers and colleagues alike to spot the signs of poor mental health, both in themselves and in others.

Some of the most common types of workplace mental health problems include stress, anxiety and depression. A study by Champion Health reveals that 67% of UK employees report experiencing moderate to high stress levels, with workload the most frequently cited cause of workplace stress.

Meanwhile, 58% of professional workers report experiencing at least mild anxiety symptoms, with almost one in four meeting the threshold for symptoms that are clinically relevant.

Finally, in the UK workforce today, levels of depression are also high, with 52% of workers experiencing at least mild symptoms and 22% reporting clinically relevant symptoms.

Despite a great deal of headway in bringing mental health into the national conversation, the topic still remains taboo for many, with employees remaining reluctant to discuss mental health issues with their colleagues or managers, often because they are afraid of the response and how they will be perceived by their colleagues.

It is incredibly important for employers to be proactive in their approach to the mental health of their workers, familiarising themselves with common signs and symptoms of psychological issues. These may not always be obvious, but telltale signs of mental health problems in the workplace might include:

  • Reduced engagement
  • Uncharacteristic behaviour
  • A decline in productivity
  • Increased absence
  • Changes in eating and sleeping behaviours
  • Changes in work patterns
  • Anxiety, paranoia and irrational fears
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Substance misuse

Being able to spot signs of mental illness is very valuable for employers, facilitating timely support for staff and helping employees to seek the help necessary to live happier, more fulfilling lives. It is important to recognise, however, that everyone’s experience with poor mental health is different and that symptoms can vary considerably from one person to the next.

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