for better mental health

How to be mentally healthy at work

Learn how you can be mentally healthy at work, with suggestions for what you can do and where you can get support if you experience poor mental health.

This resource is for people managing their own mental health at work.

Is working good for my mental health?

Many people find that working is good for their mental health. A job 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 contribute and gain skills.

"We work closely together as a team and being part of that gives me a sense of self-worth and builds my self-esteem."

At times your work may be affected by your mental health problem. For example, if you are experiencing depression, you might feel so tired that you are unable to work.

But with support from your employer, you can make some changes to help manage and improve your mental health at work.

What if work is making my mental health worse?

If work is having a negative effect on your mental health, try to figure out what is causing this. It could be:

  • suffering from workplace stress
  • having poor relations with your colleagues
  • doing a certain type of work
  • being treated unfairly because of your mental health problem (experiencing stigma)
  • deciding whether to tell your employer about your mental health problem
  • worrying about returning to work after a period of poor mental health.

"I was proud of my ability to keep my anxiety hidden from my colleagues and saw it as a sign of strength. Until the day it became impossible."

Whether you have a mental health problem or not, your employer has a duty of care to you under health and safety legislation. You have the right to work somewhere safe. This means where any risks to your health are properly assessed and controlled.

For more information, visit the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

What is disability discrimination?

Disability discrimination is when you're treated badly because of having a disability, or something related to being disabled.

Under the Equality Act 2010, your mental health problem is a disability if:

  • it has a substantial effect on carrying out your normal day-to-day activities
  • your condition is long term (meaning it has lasted, or is likely to last, 12 months or more).

See our pages on disability discrimination and discrimination at work for more information. You can also contact the Equality Advisory Support Service for independent help and advice.

How can I stay mentally healthy if I'm unemployed?

You might be unemployed as a result of your mental health problem, or for reasons which don't involve your mental health. Some reasons could be:

  • redundancy
  • long-term sickness
  • lack of opportunities
  • relocation
  • dismissal
  • not being well enough to work.

When looking for a new job, it can take time to find a suitable role, write applications and prepare for interviews. This can feel very challenging.

You might also find that being unemployed affects your confidence. It can feel disappointing if employers don't get back to you. See our pages on wellbeing and increasing your self-esteem for ways to look after yourself.

"I was unemployed for quite a few years after being made redundant from my role at another organisation. I went into a very bad state of mind."

Who can support me in finding a job?

If you have a mental health problem, you may sometimes face barriers to finding employment. The following organisations can support you:

  • Shaw Trust and Remploy work with people with mental health problems. They help with interview preparation, finding suitable employment and staying well in work.
  • Jobcentre Plus advisers can assist you in finding a job that is right for you. They can also help you with your claims for financial support while unemployed.
  • Rethink Mental Illness provides information about some schemes and organisations that can help you into work.

What if I'm not well enough to work?

If you're not well enough to work, there are still ways of getting the benefits of having a job. You can meet new people, gain skills and contribute to a community. If you feel able to, you could consider the following activities:

  • Try volunteering. For local volunteering ideas and opportunities, visit the National Council For Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) website for England or the Volunteering Wales website.
  • Join a community group. The Government website has a feature where you can search for local community groups and services. You could also check local noticeboards, social media groups and newspapers to see what's on near you.
  • Do a free course. Some colleges and universities offer distance learning courses that cost nothing at all. You can study remotely in your free time. Visit the Open University website for more information.

Sometimes you might even need to take a break from work for your mental health. Read more about taking time off for mental health.

Coronavirus and unemployment

If you've lost your job or you're off work due to the pandemic, visit our pages about coronavirus and work for information and support.

This information was published in December 2020. We will revise it in 2023.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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