Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace

By Chris Wagstaff.
29 Aug 2019

Approximately, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year[1]

Even more worryingly, a recent article has shown that the number of people taking their own life increased. Last year there was an 11.8% increase in the suicide rate, a rate that previously hadn't increased in five years.

Mental ill-health isn’t like a broken leg—most of the time it can’t be seen.

This only makes it harder to talk about.

But small, everyday actions can make a huge difference to someone who’s suffering.

Who suffers from mental ill-health?

Anyone can have suicidal feelings, and the feelings can have a wide range of potential causes and triggers.

They can also be intensified by alcohol, recreational non-prescription drugs or sleeping problems.

These feelings can range from abstract thoughts about ending life—or the feeling people would be better off without you—to thinking about the method of suicide. It depends on the individual and their circumstances.

Groups at known risk

Statistically, UK workers in the construction industry are most at risk, with one site in the UK reportedly tackling a mental illness ‘crisis’. But it’s not an isolated incident.

More than 1,400 construction workers took their own lives from 2011 – 2015.

The main causes of this are reported to be loneliness, relationship breakdown, and the struggle of being (sometimes) hundreds of miles away from family.

The construction industry isn’t the only sector in the UK that’s struggling either.

Other industries where workers are at high risk include:

  • Administration/service
  • Skilled electrical/electronics
  • Drivers
  • Elementary trades
  • Machine operatives
  • Managers/owners
  • Business/public service professionals
  • Scientists/researchers

Aside from the sector, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ are statistically more likely to take their own lives. Individuals who’ve attempted suicide or self-harmed in the past can be more vulnerable, as can someone who has lost a loved one to suicide.

Signs that someone may not be okay

So how do you identify someone who is struggling?

Look out for the following signs:

  • They feel restless and / or agitated
  • They feel tearful
  • Not wanting to talk to or be with people
  • Not wanting to do the things they enjoy
  • Use alcohol or non-prescription drugs to cope with their feelings
  • They find it hard to cope with everyday things
  • They are not replying to messages and / or are being distant
  • There is a change in their normal behaviour(s) or appearance

You may not always be able to spot the signs, as these emotions show up differently in each individual.

If you think someone is struggling: approach them and ask.

How should I approach someone who isn’t okay?

If you know someone’s been unwell, never be afraid to ask how they are.

Remember each person is an individual and will want different help at different times.

Be open-minded. Phrases such as ‘cheer up’, ‘you will get through’ or ‘pull yourself together’ are unlikely to help.

Be non-judgemental and actively listen when they speak. Listening is not about problem-solving and solution-finding, listening is about truly hearing and acknowledging.

People with mental health conditions can work to their full potential, however, they often fear prejudice.

The employee should be treated the same as any other at work.

To assist this, the proactive management of mental health conditions can be achieved through various strategies involving: medication, health care, therapy and self-management.

What can I do?

  • Talk to them. The conversation may be difficult but it can really help
  • Encourage them to contact professional bodies such as:
    • BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy – Email
    • Aware – Telephone 02890357820 (northern Ireland) or 1800 804 848 (ROI) or email:
    • GROW (ROI) – Telephone 1890 474 474
    • Lifeline (Northern Ireland) – 0808 808 8000
    • MIND (England and Wales) – Telephone 0300 123 3393 or Text 86463 or Email:
    • SAMH (Scotland) – Telephone 0141 530 1000 or Email:
    • SHOUT – Text Shout to 85258, as advised by Shout if you feel your life is in imminent danger please call 999
    • their GP
    • The Samaritans – Telephone 116123 or Email: (response time is within 24 hours)

Or, if you’re a Croner EAP client, your staff can access counselling through their employee assistance programme, and find the support they need there.

Look after yourself

Always be mindful that supporting someone in distress can in itself be distressing.

The first rule of any first aid, including mental health first aid is not to become a casualty yourself.

Expert support

If you have an HR, employment law, health & safety, or pay & reward issue, speak to a Croner expert today on 01455 858 132.


[1] Mental Health Facts & Statistics

About the Author

Chris Wagstaff

Chris is the Director of Health and Safety at Croner. Chris is also CMIOSH accredited, an IOSH Mentor and HSE People Champion and has over 20 years working in Health & Safety.


Fiona Burns

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