Don’t forget – mental wellbeing isn’t just about depression, anxiety and stress

Beckett Frith
Beckett Frith

Senior Content Officer, Mental Health at Work

Beckett is the new Content Officer on Mental Health at Work, joining us from the world of HR journalism with a special interest in mental health and wellbeing. Since March 2019 he’s been wading through an onslaught of new, old, possible and existing resources, talking to employers and being the anonymous pen behind a lot of the words that have appeared on the site. By way of an introduction, we invited him to write about anything that had struck him since starting here.

It’s a fine line working out which things are suitable for this site – we’re not 100% an employment site, nor 100% a mental health site. One of the things we’ve been talking about is how far to go in the direction of specific or less-common mental health conditions. Are we the place people should turn to for these things, as opposed to, for example, Mind Mind Mind provides advice and support on mental health, and campaigns to improve understanding, across England and Wales. View organisation, or the NHS? So, we’ve generally shied away from entirely medical or condition-related stuff – but it’s important to recognise that so-called ‘less common’ mental health disorders are more common than people think, and relevant to the workplace too.

But while depression and anxiety are very common – with around 17% of the population believed to have either or both of the conditions – other, less well-discussed issues are also relatively commonplace in the general population. Estimates for the number of people with these diagnoses can vary quite a lot, but the most recent reported findings are[1]:

Psychotic disorder – 0.7 in 100 people*

Bipolar disorder – 2.0 in 100 people

Antisocial personality disorder – 3.3 in 100 people

Borderline personality disorder – 2.4 in 100 people

*Measured over the last year.

So, in an organisation of, say, 50 people, you shouldn’t be surprised to find an employee who’s experienced, or is experiencing, one or more of these conditions.

Colleagues talk at a photocopier.
Employers may feel more of a sense of responsibility towards ‘fixing’ workplace conditions that could be causing stress, depression and anxiety.

While the focus on depression and anxiety could be a result of how prevalent they are, it also might stem from these conditions having a very obvious link to the workplace. It’s common sense that work can cause anxiety and stress, and also clear that employers can take simple steps to reduce the pressures that cause them. As such, employers may feel more of a sense of responsibility towards ‘fixing’ or at least mitigating workplace conditions that could be causing stress, depression and anxiety.

When it comes to mental health conditions outside of these, however, it’s harder to see such an obvious connection to work. It might be that employers find it harder to intuitively see what they can do to help – and so they might feel less of a responsibility to act. Despite this, it’s essential that organisations do take the time to support staff who may be experiencing these conditions; in many cases, you may have a legal obligation Workplace stress: fulfilling your responsibilities as an employer There are legal requirements, as well as recommended core standards, that set out employers' responsibilities around workplace mental health. View toolkit under the Equality Act 2010, but it should also be a concern of employers who just want to do right by their staff too.

Colleagues chat over a cup of tea.
The most crucial step you can take is to ensure you talk about mental health conditions that go beyond anxiety and depression.

Thankfully, there are small steps you can take that will be extremely impactful.

A great place to start is the Fluctuating conditions, fluctuating support report from The Work Foundation, which examines fluctuating health conditions at work, including mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Time to Change Time to Change Time to Change is a growing movement of people changing how we all think and act about mental health. View organisation have also produced a video case study, exploring how one manager helped support a staff member who experienced schizophrenia. When you feel confident discussing mental health at work, Wellness Actions Plans​Guides to wellness action plans Web page Wellness action plans are an easy way to help support your own mental health at work and that of your team members. Mind has guidance and templates to get you started, for both employees and line managers.FreeSign up to receive by e-mail By: Mind View resource (WAPs) are an easy, practical way of helping you to support the mental health of your team members.

The most crucial step you can take, however, is to ensure you talk about mental health conditions that go beyond anxiety and depression. Removing the stigma around all mental illness is important – not just the ones we find the easiest to discuss.

[1] McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016). Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult psychiatric morbidity survey 2014. Leeds: NHS digital.

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