It’s World Mental Health Day on October 10th, and this year the theme is ‘Mental Health In The Workplace’ which is obviously a huge issue, and the reason why I’ve set up the Stay Sane At Work website and my Facebook group Stay Sane At Work. The World Federation of Mental Health first celebrated World Mental Health Day in 1992, and each year thousands of supporters and campaigners raise awareness about mental health and how it affects people’s lives worldwide. 

According to the World Health Organisation:

“Depression and anxiety disorders are common mental disorders that have an impact on our ability to work, and to work productively. Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability. More than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders. Many of these people live with both. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.”

The Problem

Too many people are suffering in silence about work-related mental health. People are affected by many negative situations in the workplace – bullying and harassment, excessive workloads, lack of support, difficult bosses, substandard conditions to name but a few. Small business owners can be affected by isolation, financial stress, lack of work/life balance, or ‘feast or famine’ (too much work or not enough work).

Too many people are affected by work-related stress

According to the Health and Safety Executive’s Work Related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics 2016:

  • The total number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2015/16 was 488,000 cases, a prevalence rate of 1510 per 100,000 workers (reported cases)
  • The number of new cases was 224,000, an incidence rate of 690 per 100,000 workers
  • The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2015/16 was 11.7 million days. This equated to an average of 23.9 days lost per case
  • In 2015/16 stress accounted for 37% of all work related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health

Work/life balance is one of the biggest issues for all workers. The cost of living is forcing people to work harder and in many cases this affects their wellbeing. We’re not taught to deal with stress at school. We’re taught to compete, push ourselves hard, be the best. In many cases we’re expected to choose a career at sixteen when we don’t know enough about ourselves and the world. Many people end up stuck doing jobs they don’t enjoy, often because of their responsibilities later in life.

Competition for jobs is getting fiercer. There’s so much pressure on people, so no wonder there are millions of work days lost due to stress and depression, costing businesses billions. A lot of people don’t feel like they can be open about how they feel at work, so they keep going which can lead to burnout and long term conditions such as severe depression.

What Can Be Done To Prevent Work-Related Mental Ill-Health?

Kids need to be taught at school about work-related mental health. Just because someone can pass exams doesn’t mean they can cope in a highly stressful work environment. There also needs to be more training on how to behave at work, better careers advice, what to do in difficult situations in the workplace, how to prevent stress, anxiety and depression and how to get well (instead of using unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol).

                Massage in the workplace

Employers, employees and self-employed people need to be aware about self-care and wellbeing techniques that help us to destress and stay well, such as taking regular breaks, eating well, getting enough sleep, getting out in nature and limiting use of technology. Workplaces need to have measures and procedures in place to prevent mental health issues from occurring, and also help staff who are dealing with these issues, with proper training in place for managers and employees. Money needs to be spent on stress management (training and activities such as mindfulness and massage at work) which will save companies money in the long run.

I’ve been self-employed for two years. I don’t miss some of the sources of stress that affected me in the workplace (not being in control of my workload, office politics, difficult bosses) but I’m still affected by things such as isolation, stress if I have too much work or not enough work, and anxiety about the future and whether I can carry on being self-employed (find out more about self-employment stress here).

This is why I’ve decided to set up Small Business Owner Day retreats in the North East of England to help people to take some time out for themselves (you’re very welcome if you have a job, too). I have suffered from work-related stress in employment and self-employment and as a result I’ve learned a lot about self-care and how to stay in balance, but it’s amazing how easy it is for it to creep up on you. By sharing my story and raising awareness I’m trying to turn the negative experiences I’ve had into a positive and help others (and myself in the process).

Please get in touch if you have been affected and you’d be happy to share your story on this blog.

To support your staff and managers with up to date information from Mind click here

To support my Crowdfunding campaign to help me to promote my book click here 

To join the Stay Sane At Work Facebook group click here

If you live in the North East, find out more about my Small Business Owner Day Retreats here

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