ACAS Guide - Definition on what is mental health?

An extract from another interesting and helpful guide from the team at ACAS on Mental health definition.  

What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Mental ill health can range from feeling 'a bit down' to common disorders such as anxiety and depression to more severe and far less common conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Most people's mental health will not just be continuously good. Usually it will rise and fall depending on pressures and/or experiences in their life. A person may therefore feel in good mental health generally but also experience stress or anxiety from time to time.

Why is understanding and addressing mental health important?

People that feel good about themselves often work productively, interact well with colleagues and make a valuable contribution to the workplace.

A recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development study highlighted the impact that mental ill health can have on organisations. The study found that:

  • 37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues

  • 57% find it harder to juggle multiple tasks

  • 80% find it difficult to concentrate

  • 62% take longer to do tasks

  • 50% are potentially less patient with customers/clients.

The study also found that, for the first time, stress is the major cause of long-term absence in manual and non-manual workers.

Promoting positive mental health in the workplace

Promoting positive mental health in your workplace can be hugely beneficial. Staff with good mental health are more likely to perform well, have good attendance levels and be engaged in their work.

For a step by step approach to help employers improve the mental health of staff and provide support for staff that experience mental ill health, go to Promoting positive mental health in the workplace.

Managing staff experiencing mental ill health

Managers should be confident in supporting staff experiencing mental ill health. It is important that managers are able to spot the signs of mental ill health, know how to approach conversations sensitively and how they can support staff experiencing mental ill health.

Dealing with stress in the workplace

Reducing work-related stress can be hugely beneficial to an employer - reducing absence levels and improving overall performance. Employers also have a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees.

Organisations should be thinking about the causes of workplace stress, how to reduce them in their workplace and how best to support staff when they do experience stress.

Workplace Anxiety & Work Related Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, nervousness or unease about something. Employers and managers should understand what can cause anxiety and what signs may indicate a team member is experiencing anxiety.

For more on what Acas people and others say about promoting mental health in the workplace, see our blogs.

Where to go for further support if you are experiencing mental ill health

If you are experiencing mental ill health there is help and support for you.

Access to work that can provide advice and an assessment of workplace needs if you have a disability or a long-term health condition, and are already in work or about to start. Grants may be available to help cover the cost of workplace adaptations to enable you to carry out your job without being at a disadvantage. 

Improved Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) / Wellbeing Services exist in all localities but there's not a single point of access. You should check with your GP surgery to see if this may be available near you.

Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. Their helpline and website provide information and support to empower anyone experiencing mental ill health and general advice on mental health-related law. 

NHS choices has a website that offers information and practical advice for anyone experiencing mental ill health. 

Remploy offers a free and confidential Workplace Mental Health Support Service if you are absent from work or finding work difficult because of a mental health condition. It aims to help people remain in (or return to) their role. 

Rethink Mental Illness is the largest national voluntary sector provider of mental health services, offering support groups, advice and information on mental health problems. 

Trade unions - if you are a trade union member, you can seek help and guidance from your trade union representative.

ACAS Guide - Definition on what is mental health?