Introduction to mental health

Poor mental health, stress, anxiety and depression can hit anyone at any time and at any level of the business.

The HSE has recognised that stress is a workplace hazard and should be assessed and managed similarly to traditional safety risks - as explained in the HSE stress management standards. Research has shown that physical and mental health are closely interlinked, one being a catalyst for the other. An employee wellbeing programme should actively assist individuals to maximise not only their physical health but also their mental health.

An individual experiences work stress when they perceive that the demands of their work are greater than their ability to cope. However sources of stress can often arise from the home environment which can then manifest itself in the workplace.

When we talk specifically about stress, it is important to be reminded that it can be both positive (Eustress) and negative i.e. we all need a certain amount of daily pressure and challenge to stay motivated to achieve results. However, when pressure exceeds our coping mechanism it can become detrimental to our health and performance in life. It is also important to note that stress can result from having too few demands, as employees can become bored, feel undervalued and insignificant within an organisation.

Stress and mental health can be a very emotive topic for some and so targeting stress in the workplace can be challenging. It can also be perceived negatively whereas resilience can be seen as a more positive solution. Raising awareness of positive mental health from a resilience perspective can present a good starting point to the wider mental health topic.

Focusing more on resilience opens up both an interesting and educational outlook on how to manage pressure, change and challenge in a way that protects the individual from a negative experience and subsequently enables greater capacity to gain control and continue to perform. Resilient individuals still experience pain, distress, frustration and emotion. However, they have developed the ability to bounce back, re-focus, gain that control and channel their energy in a positive way so as to restore a sense of health and wellbeing.

The approach to the topic of mental health in this guide focuses on developing employee resilience to positively impact mental, social and emotional health across different worker profiles.