Like most things in life, your job can have its ups and downs. Sometimes, you have a great day and achieve everything on your to-do list. Other days, it feels like the most toxic environment you’ve ever had to put up with.
There will be personality clashes and best friends; major successes and abject failure. And if you have a mental health issue, the natural highs and lows associated with working life can have a real impact on this.
As recruiters, we see people desperate to change jobs or simply weighed down by seemingly endless unemployment. The financial pressures that accompany job seeking can also prove to be trigger points for those dealing with a mental health issue.
Studies have also shown that those on lower income jobs are significantly more likely to experience a mental health issue, as the pressures of paying bills and supporting any dependents mount up. The ability to afford good quality housing and healthy foods – since living conditions and diet have strong links with mental health – is naturally subject to an individual’s take-home wage.
Poverty, unemployment and poor social conditions are also linked with higher rates of suicide and self-harm. The uncertainty of long-term unemployment – coupled with rejection of job offers – also makes individuals between four and ten times more likely to develop anxiety and depression.
Since one in four adults in the UK will experience a mental health issue, this accounts to a sizeable percentage of the workforce (at any given time) attempting to juggle their mental health and every day, working life.
Which is why it is so important that we eradicate flippant uses of words such as ‘depressed’, ‘nuts’, ‘OCD’ and ‘psycho’ that are so often dropped into an office conversation. These terms can be hurtful, and may trigger a poor emotional reaction from a co-worker with a mental health issue.
Employers need to ensure that all reasonable adjustments that can be made to accommodate any mental health needs are met, and that all staff are educated as to the sensitive nature of mental health issues. All myths and stereotypes need to be challenged and avoided. If we are all communicating in a positive and meaningful manner, this could be conducive to a healthier workplace overall.
When dealing with the issue of redundancy, it is equally important for those making the decision deal with the matter in as respectful a way as possible. Perhaps by recommending training programmes or recruitment agencies and giving the employee in question plenty of notice so that they can begin to make adjustments in their personal life.
Even small changes to everyday routine can trigger episodes of anxiety or distress in those who have a mental health issue. This doesn’t mean tip-toeing around an individual – most people with mental health issues simply want to get on with things and have a laugh with their colleagues like everyone else.
People with mental health issues – in employment or looking for work – do not want to feel even more alienated than their conditions can often make them feel.
Everyone has the right to a safe, tolerant and considerate working environment – not just for Mental Health Awareness Week, but every week.