Mental health describes how we think and feel about ourselves and others, it also refers to how we interpret events in everyday life. This relates to our ability to cope with change, transition, significant life events and the stress that often comes from these events.

In Ireland one in every five people will develop a mental health problem in their lifetime and European statistics from the Central Statistics Office shows that on average 30% of consultations with individuals and their general practitioners per year were about mental health problems.

These mental health problems contain a wide spectrum of illnesses and conditions such as anxiety and stress but the most prominent mental health problem both in Ireland and globally is depression. Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent sadness and loss of interest, you may also find it hard doing normal day to day activities. Depression affects how you behave and think and can lead to many emotional and physical problems. This disorder is the primary contributing factor for most suicide and self-harm cases.

On average, there are five hundred suicides in Ireland every year with most of the cases happening to men as in 2015 the ratio of deaths by suicide between men and women was five to one. The age groups that are currently most affected by suicide are men aged between 40 and 44 years of age, adolescent males have the second highest rate of suicides in Ireland.

Mental Health in the workplace

Mental health problems are one of the leading causes of absenteeism in the workplace worldwide and on average per year in Britain poor mental health is responsible for 10.4 million working days being missed per year. This results in costing the employer due to loss of labor and obviously those worst effected are the individuals with the mental health issue themselves. The employee’s depression could come from any aspect in their lives but for many individuals it is due to their work life or an uneven balance between home life and work.

Healthy workplace initiatives have been found to lower absenteeism and reported mental health issues. There can be many reasons for an individual developing a mental health issue from their work, for example individuals who feel they are undervalued or mistreated by employers or colleagues.

It is important for everyone to establish a healthy work life balance as respondents to various workplace surveys note that the longer the shifts you work the more unhappy you are likely to be while working. It is important to remember to say no to employers and to provide yourself with enough time for your social life.

Information taken from a mental health foundation survey found some surprizing insights between mental health and the workplace. It claimed that a third of all participants were unhappy because they devote so much time to work, it also found that over 40% of the workers in the survey neglected other aspects of their lives such as social life and daily exercise. This can lead to mental and physical health problems due to the unhealthy lifestyle caused by your place of work. When employees must work long hours the survey stated that over a quarter feel depressed and 58% of the individuals surveyed felt irritable.

Improving your working mental health:

There are several ways you can improve your mental health in your workplace and if you follow the instructions below you should be feeling better towards your workplace.

  • The first action you must take is to take responsibility for and improve your work life balance. This may involve addressing your employer about the workload and expectations that your employer demands and giving yourself more free time for healthy activities.
  • Prioritizing- This involves mapping out all your tasks for the workday and allowing yourself specific amounts of time for each task. This is known as working “smart not long” and can help you boost productivity and leave you under significantly less stress.
  • Take proper breaks at work, having a break that lasts between 20 minutes and half an hour means you can engage in healthy activities such as walking. This time spent away from the desk helps to relieve stress and clear your head so that you can tackle your work with a fresh view.
  • Separate your work and leisure time, if you must take work home with you then confine it to a corner of your home and leave it for tomorrow if you feel fatigued. Although it is best to keep your work at work and to leave yourself with time for leisure and exercise, both of which will help contribute to an improved mental health.
  • Acknowledge the link between stress and mental ill health so that you could reduce stress through different methods e.g., exercise, hobbies. I know that stress helps to keep you on your toes and make you more efficient when you’re working but there is a time and a place for it, so try and be more aware of your stress levels.

Signs and symptoms of work-related stress:

There are many signs of work-related stress, and they can come in three forms behavioural, psychological, and physical symptoms. If you have a number of these symptoms and do feel stressed and that you have a mental strain, then we recommend visiting your local GP and ask for an analysis and recommendation.

Behavioural Symptoms:

  • Irritable
  • Aggressive
  • Mood swings
  • A drop-in workplace performance
  • Isolation

Psychological Symptoms:

  • Unable to concentrate
  • Pessimism
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

Physical Symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Tiredness and feeling fatigued
  • Insomnia, poor sleeping patterns
  • Digestive and dermatological problems
  • Heart palpitations

Getting Help:

As mentioned above if you have a number of these symptoms, it may be prudent to go see your GP but there are other resources that could also have a positive impact on your mental health. You should never be afraid or ashamed regarding your mental health and asking for help. The fact is many people are simply unaware of the massive impact our mental health has on our general health and our lives. You wouldn’t be ashamed about going to the emergency room after breaking your leg so why would you let your mental health be any different? If you feel that you need help reach out to one of these individuals or resources and be open and honest about how you’re feeling.

  • Peers
  • Family
  • GP
  • Psychologist
  • Mental Health Ireland
  • Psychiatrist
  • Your current manager
  • Human resources manager