Mental Health in the Workplace
Dispelling the myth that Stress, Anxiety and Depression are all the same.
Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event held to raise the profile of mental health in an attempt to break the stigmas associated with the matter and encourage people to be more open about it.
This year’s focus is towards tackling stress. By tackling stress, we can go a long way to reduce mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and, in some instances, self-harm and suicide.
There are many misconceptions associated with mental health and one of the major ones is the notion that Stress, Anxiety and Depression are all the same. This article sets out to dispel this misbelief and looks at the issues from an Employment Law perspective.
Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace
Awareness of mental health conditions in the workplace is growing and there is an increasing demand for organisations to become better educated about them.
It is believed that ‘12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions and that better mental health support in the workplace could save UK businesses up to £8 billion per year’. With this in mind, why wouldn’t an organisation want to better informed?
For years discussing mental health has been a taboo but more recently this has reduced. There are calls for employers to appoint designated mental health first aiders, the argument being every workplace has a First Aider for physical health, so why shouldn’t the same apply for mental health.
Depending on the individual’s circumstances, an employer should be aware of the impact their mental health has on their working life; a lack of awareness can have serious consequences for the employer.
Depression, Anxiety and Stress
Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time and affects everyday life. It doesn’t stop an individual from leading a normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. Depression is split into three categories; mild, moderate and severe. Depending on the individual’s symptoms and the impact they are having on their daily lives will determine the category and their treatment will be tailored to this too.
Anxiety is what everybody feels when they are worried, tense or afraid and it is a natural human response. Anxiety can become a mental health problem when it impacts an individual’s ability to live their life as fully as they want to. When it becomes hard to control, fears and worries are taken out of proportion and the individual can be prone to symptoms such as panic attacks on a regular basis, it is when it impacts daily life that it becomes a problem.
Being under pressure is a normal part of life but if an individual often becomes overwhelmed by stress, these feelings could start to be a problem. Stress can cause mental health problems such as depression and anxiety and make existing mental health conditions worse, these existing issues can also be a trigger of stress.
Each condition differs however they are all underpinned by the way they make an individual feel and the effect it has on their ability to carry out their normal lives. Stress can be a trigger for anxiety and depression similarly anxiety and depression can trigger stress and therefore it is wrong for them all to be classed under the same umbrella.
Mental Health and Discrimination
Despite awareness of mental health increasing, we still face a world where people with mental health problems face discrimination.
There are a wide range of legal rights that protect individual’s mental health at work. These range from basic human rights such as the right to freedom of expression to health and safety legislations that keep individuals safe from hazards, including psychological hazards. Most people with ongoing mental health problems meet the definition of disability in the Equality Act (2010). This means that people with mental health problems are protected from discrimination and harassment and are entitled to reasonable adjustments to adapt their job or work.
To be considered disabled under equality legislation, a person must have an impairment that has ‘a substantial, adverse and long-term impact on their ability to carry out every day tasks’.
Employers must take responsibility for this and be able to demonstrate any adjustments they have made for an individual. Failure to do so could result in legal action from the employee on the basis of disability discrimination.
Seeking Professional Advice on Employment Law
Our Employment Team work for either parties; employers and employees and have dealt with many discrimination claims in the past. Lawson West are a national provider of expert employment law advice and welcome a free discussion with you regarding your circumstances and potential claim.
If you believe you have a situation where you require free legal advice, please contact us on telephone 0116 212 1000 or 01858 445 480, alternatively fill in the free Contact Us formand we will get in touch as soon as possible.