Many people find going to work is good for their mental health. It can help you look after your mental health by providing:
- a source of income
- a sense of identity
- contact and friendship with others
- a steady routine and structure
- opportunities to gain achievements and contribute
I found work helps me to maintain an important part of my identity – separate from the illness. It's still me in here.
At times you may find that your work is affected because of your mental health problem. For instance, if you are experiencing hypomania, you might find it difficult to concentrate. But by making a few changes, and with support from your employer, work can be a positive experience.
What if work is making my mental health worse?
Unfortunately, you might find work can has a negative impact on your mental health. This could be because of:
- workplace stress
- poor relations with your colleagues
- the type of work you're doing
- experiencing stigma, or being treated unfairly because of your mental health problem
- being unsure whether to tell your boss and colleagues about your mental health problem
- worrying about returning to work after a period of poor mental health
If work is affecting your mental health, you can take steps to address the problems.
Work takes my mind off my mental illness but also makes it worse as no-one around you knows what you are going through so you have to pretend everything is fine.
Whether you have a mental health problem or not, your employer has a duty of care to you under health and safety legislation. Employees have the right to:
- work where risks to their health are properly controlled
- protection after returning to work from sickness absence if they have become more vulnerable due to their illness
For more information, see the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
What is disability discrimination?
You are considered disabled if your mental health problem has a substantial and long-term adverse effect (12 months, or more) on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
It is discrimination if you are treated worse than others at work because of your disability. The Equality Act 2010 protects you from discrimination when you're:
- applying for a job
- at work
- made redundant
See our web pages about disability discrimination and discrimination at work for more information or contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service for independent support and advice.
What if I'm unemployed?
People experience unemployment for different reasons, such as:
- lack of opportunities
- not being well enough to work
When looking for a new job, challenges such as finding a suitable role, writing applications and attending interviews can take time. You might find that being unemployed affects your confidence, or that it can be disheartening if employers don't get back to you. See our pages on wellbeing and increasing your self-esteem for ways to look after yourself.
Who can support me in finding a job?
If you have a mental health problem and you're facing barriers to finding employment, there are organisations that can support you.
- Your local Jobcentre Plus can support you in finding a job that is right for you.
- Shaw Trust and Remploy work with people with mental health problems, helping them prepare for interviews, find appropriate employment and stay well in work.
- Rethink Mental Illness has more information about different schemes and organisations that can help you into work.
Will I always get the support I need to go back to work?
We know that back-to-work schemes often fail to provide the support that people with mental health problems need to stay well, return to, or start work. Getting the right support can make a big difference to your mental health, so that's why we’re campaigning to change these schemes.
You can find out more about our back-to-work campaign and how to get involved by reading more about our back-to-work manifesto.
What if I'm not well enough to work?
If you are unable to work there are still ways of getting the benefits of having a job, such as meeting new people, gaining skills and contributing to a community. If you feel able to, you may want to think about:
- volunteering. For local volunteering ideas and opportunities, see the National Council For Voluntary Organisations website (England) or Volunteering Wales website.
- joining a community group. You can search for local community groups and services on this government website. Alternatively, you could check your local noticeboards and newspapers to find out what is available near you.
- doing a course. The Open University has a number of distance learning courses that are free. See their website for more information.
This information was published in April 2016. We will revise it in 2019.