Stress and mental health at work

Lesson Progress:

Stress is the adverse reaction people have to too much pressure or other demands placed upon them. It is not an illness in itself, but can lead to you not being able to perform at work and can have an impact on your mental and physical health and wellbeing. Stress can lead to anxiety and depression, as well as other chronic health conditions such as strokes, back pain, headaches or migraine, stomach problems and drug and alcohol dependency.

Work-related stress and mental health conditions are closely linked, with similar signs and symptoms. Work-related stress can trigger or worsen an existing mental health condition. Your employer should identify any signs of mental health problems quickly and efficiently so they can help you to get the support or treatment you need.

The early signs and symptoms of a mental health issue may include, but not be limited to, the following.

Stress can affect you physically and mentally
  • Erratic or changed behaviour.
  • Poor work quality.
  • Poor time keeping.
  • Withdrawal from social contact.
  • Increased absenteeism.
  • Unusual shows of emotion.
  • Changed appearance.
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs or smoking.
  • Over performance – people pushing themselves to excess.

The earlier it is identified that an individual may be experiencing a mental health problem, the better it will be for all involved.

The following may help to improve your mental health.

  • Talk to a family member, a friend you trust, a mate at work, or someone independent. Talking about how you feel is not a sign of weakness and having someone listen to you can often make you feel better.
  • Look after your physical health. Good mental and physical health are directly linked. Physical activity, sleep and diet can all impact on your mental health. Getting a good night’s sleep and eating a healthy diet can all improve the way you feel.
  • Do things that you enjoy (for example, a hobby, reading or sport) and try to avoid things that you don’t.
  • Recognise your limits, as this will help you recognise the things that are likely to have a negative impact on your mental health. Stop when you need to, and take a break if you feel like things are getting too much.
Many sources of help are available. For further information refer to organisations such as Mind (, Time to Change ( Bipolar UK ( and Heads Together (