Mental health is relevant at work because we spend so much of our time there; we bring our whole selves to work and sometimes we go through hard times and need extra support. We are, after all, only human.
Like physical health problems, mental health problems are very common. Nearly half the population will meet the criteria for a mental illness diagnosis at some stage during their lives, and 1 in 5 of us will experience depression in any given year.
The number of people whose ability to work is impaired by mental illness is difficult to determine. However, the number of people with mental illness who are chronically disabled and cannot work comprises just 3-5 per cent of the general population (workwise.org.nz).
What is important to remember is that most people with experience of mental illness can work and want to work. Work is also important in helping people get well, and stay well. It gives us a routine and meaning to our days.
It is not always easy to notice changes in ourselves or someone else. Sometimes people may not realise they are becoming unwell. You are not expected to diagnose their or your own condition however, the earlier you speak up or notice someone is experiencing mental health difficulties, the quicker we can take steps to help. Like physical health issues, the longer we leave a situation like this, the harder it is to solve the problem and the condition may get worse.
Signs of declining mental health
Usually there are changes to someone's behaviour:
- Decreased performance
- Increased sick leave
- Problems with colleagues
- A normally punctual employee might start turning up late
- Conversely, an employee may begin coming in much earlier and working later
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs or smoking
Other signs might be tearfulness, headaches, loss of humour and changes in emotional mood.
Work pressure and difficult personal circumstances can make managing mental health problems difficult. Whether you are struggling yourself or someone in your team, speaking to someone confidentially can make all the difference and can help you address issues in the workplace, consider utilising the following staff support services.
- The Staff Support Team
- The Employee Assistance Programme (staff only)
- The Occupational Health Team (OHT) (staff only)
- The chaplaincy office
- The conflict and resolution service
- Your manager/supervisor or Human Resources
The Occupational Health Team, which is part of the Health, Safety and Wellbeing team, offers confidential support managing health issues in the workplace and facilitates a range of Mental Health and Wellbeing training for all staff:
- A guide for managers, Part I – The importance of Psychological Safety at Work (2 hours)
- A guide for managers, Part II – case management (3 hours)
- Personal and Professional Boundaries (2 hours)
- Supporting people, MH First Aid (3 hours)
- Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) (2 hours)
- Burnout (1 hour) – webinar
All courses are being delivered by zoom also.
Further information and practical, safe online tools
- Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
- EAP provider Benestar
- Health Navigator
- Mental Health Foundation of NZ
- Getting through together
- Depression and anxiety
- The LowDown
- Suicide Prevention Hope Centre
- HELPLINES NZ (PDF)