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WORLD Mental Health Day: Mental Health at Work

10 October 2018

Today is World Mental Health Day, a globally recognised awareness initiative organised by the World Federation for Mental Health. We're taking this opportunity to take a look at workplace stress and how organisations can help their employees manage it.

Mental health has a critical impact on economic development and wellbeing. Mental health issues have been shown to increase employee absenteeism, lower rates of productivity and increase costs. Annual global costs of mental health problems are estimated at 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars and expected to rise to 6 trillion U.S. dollars by 2030.

In Cigna's 2018 360° Wellbeing surveyemployees reported having higher amounts of workplace stress as well as the need for help from employers to manage it. One in six respondents said they were unable to manage stress.

What causes job stress?

The most common sources of work-related stress are:

  • Increased responsibility
  • Inability to cope with work demands
  • Lack of support
  • Lack of control
  • Uncertainty about work roles
  • Lack of job satisfaction
  • Discrimination and bullying
  • Poor communication
  • Poor working conditions (dangerous physical conditions, noise, ergonomic problems)

The repercussions of work-related stress

For the employee: Poor health. Stress not only makes existing health issues worse, but can also cause medical conditions such as heart disease and obesity in the long term.

For the employer: Productivity and revenue loss.

WHAT Can you do?

Mental health is still considered taboo, not only socially but especially in the workplace. Nearly half of employees hide their mental health issues from their employer and many employees face discrimination, harassment, and even bullying.

Training can be a good way to de-stigmatise mental ill health by increasing awareness, endorsing mental self-care, and teaching managers how to identify mental health problems and provide support to their colleagues.

However, reducing stress itself can be more effective than just stress management. Here are some ways to achieve this:

  • Ensure managers are aware of staff workloads and holidays
  • Offer self-help workshops
  • On-site counselling
  • Adopt an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

Investing in your employees is a two-way street: when staff feel cared for and appreciated they'll “invest” in the company in the form of commitment and motivation.




1. Mental Health Foundation. Managing mental health in the workplace, UNUM. May 2016. Accessed 1st October 2018.
2. Health and Safety Executive. Work related stress, anxiety and depression statistics in Great Britain 2016. 2016. Accessed 
1st October 2018.
3. Health and Safety Executive. Causes of stress at work. Accessed 
1st October 2018.
4. UNUM. Mental health and the workplace. October 2017. Accessed 1st October 2018.
5. Time to Change. I can stand my mental illnesses at work, but not the discrimination. December 2016. Accessed 
1st October 2018.
6. American Psychological Association. Understanding chronic stress. Accessed 1st October 2018.