How to Hold a Job with Mental Illness: A Practical Guide

Written By

Helen Kaminski, MSc


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In today’s fast-paced work environment, the importance of maintaining mental health has never been more critical.

As stress levels rise and work-life balance becomes harder to achieve, understanding how to navigate mental health issues at work is essential.

This guide aims to provide employees with strategies and resources to manage their mental health, ensuring productivity and wellbeing in the workplace.

Understanding the Impact of Mental Illness at Work

Mental health in the workplace is a significant concern that affects not only individual employees but also the overall productivity of organizations.

  • Stress, anxiety, and depression can lead to decreased performance, absenteeism, and even job loss.
  • Recognizing the signs of mental health issues and addressing them promptly is crucial for maintaining a healthy work environment.

Moreover, the consequences of not addressing mental health issues in the workplace can be far-reaching, including increased healthcare costs, higher turnover rates, and diminished employee engagement.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), "more than half the world’s population are currently in work and 15% of working-age adults live with a mental disorder."

A proactive approach to mental health can help in early identification and support for employees who are struggling, thereby mitigating potential negative outcomes.

Investing in mental health support not only aids in the well-being of employees but also contributes to creating a more resilient and productive workforce.

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Impact of Mental Health Issues on Workplace Outcomes

Impact AreaConsequences
Employee PerformanceReduced concentration, decision-making abilities, and productivity. Increased error rates.
AbsenteeismHigher rates of sick leaves, leading to decreased overall productivity and increased workload for other employees.
TurnoverIncreased turnover rates due to burnout or untreated mental health conditions, leading to higher recruitment and training costs.
Healthcare CostsHigher healthcare and insurance costs for organizations due to increased utilization of medical services related to mental health issues.
Employee Morale and EngagementLower morale and engagement, affecting team dynamics, collaboration, and overall workplace atmosphere.

Addressing mental health in the workplace through comprehensive strategies, including EAPs, mental health days, flexible working arrangements, and creating an inclusive culture that supports mental well-being, is not just a moral imperative but a strategic investment.

Organizations that prioritize mental health are likely to see a return in the form of a more engaged, productive, and loyal workforce.

How To Manage Mental Health At Work

Strategies for Managing Mental Health

1. Recognize the Signs: The first step in managing mental health is recognizing the signs of stress, anxiety, and depression.

These can include changes in mood, sleep patterns, appetite, and concentration levels. Early recognition allows for timely intervention.

2. Seek Support: Many workplaces offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide confidential counseling and support services.

These programs can be a valuable resource for employees dealing with mental health issues.

3. Practice Self-Care: Engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, and ensuring adequate sleep are essential components of self-care.

Taking short breaks during the workday to relax and recharge can also help manage stress levels.

4. Set Boundaries: Establishing clear boundaries between work and personal life is crucial for preventing burnout.

Learn to say no to excessive work demands and ensure you have time to relax and engage in activities you enjoy.

5. Use Technology Wisely: While technology can enhance productivity, it can also lead to information overload and increased stress.

Be mindful of your technology use, especially outside of work hours, to ensure it doesn’t negatively impact your mental health.

YouTube video
Workplace Mental Health – all you need to know (for now) | Tom Oxley | TEDxNorwichED

Accessing Therapy Through Work

Many employers recognize the importance of mental health and offer access to therapy and counseling services as part of their benefits package. These services may include:

  • In-person Therapy: Some employers provide access to in-person therapy sessions with licensed professionals.
  • Online Counseling: With the rise of telehealth, many organizations offer online counseling services, allowing employees to access therapy from the comfort of their homes.
  • Workshops and Seminars: Workplaces may also offer workshops and seminars on topics related to mental health, stress management, and resilience building.

In-Person vs. Online Counseling Services

FeatureIn-Person TherapyOnline Counseling
AccessRequires physical visitAccessible from anywhere
ConvenienceFixed scheduleFlexible scheduling
CostOften higherGenerally more affordable
Range of ServicesBroadMay be limited by platform
Technology NeedsNoneRequires internet access

The Role of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

EAPs are employer-sponsored programs designed to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health, and well-being. EAPs offer a range of services.

Employees are encouraged to take advantage of these confidential services to address their mental health needs.

EAP Services Include:

  • Short-term Counseling: EAPs often provide access to a set number of short-term counseling sessions with qualified mental health professionals. These sessions can address immediate concerns such as stress, anxiety, or personal conflicts.
  • Referrals to Mental Health Professionals: If an employee needs more specialized or long-term care, EAPs can facilitate referrals to appropriate mental health professionals or therapists within their network.
  • Support for Substance Abuse: For employees struggling with substance abuse, EAPs offer confidential assistance, including counseling and referrals to treatment programs.
  • Stress Management: Given the commonality of workplace stress, EAPs provide resources and tools to help employees manage stress effectively, including workshops, seminars, and one-on-one counseling.
  • Grief Support: EAPs offer support for employees dealing with loss, providing a space to talk through feelings of grief and offering strategies for coping.
  • Financial and Legal Consultation: Beyond mental health support, many EAPs also offer advice on financial and legal issues, helping employees navigate situations that could impact their work and personal life.
  • Work-Life Balance: Assistance with achieving a healthier work-life balance through time management, prioritization techniques, and stress reduction strategies.

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Advocating for Mental Health Support at Work

If your workplace does not currently offer comprehensive mental health support, consider advocating for it.

Speak with your HR department about the importance of mental health resources and the benefits they can bring to the organization.

Sharing personal experiences and gathering support from colleagues can also help make a compelling case for the implementation of mental health programs.


Mental health in the workplace is an issue that requires attention and action. By recognizing the signs of mental health issues, utilizing available resources, and practicing self-care, employees can navigate the challenges of the modern workplace while maintaining their mental health and wellbeing.

Employers play a critical role in providing support and resources to ensure a healthy work environment for all.

Erica Jameson, Licensed Psychologist

Looking for more mental health tips? Make sure to follow our Mental Health Board on Pinterest!

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About the author

Helen Kaminski, MSc

Helen Kaminski, MSc

Mindful living for a happier, healthier you. I’m a medical writer, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and a mental health advocate in Warsaw, Poland, with nine years working as a therapist. I hold a Master's in Clinical Psychology degree from the University of Warsaw. I specialize in writing about mental health, using my experiences and academic background to educate and inspire others. In my free time, I volunteer at a Disability Learning Center and go for nature walks. My writing aims to break down mental health stigma and help others feel understood. Social connections are vital to mental well-being, and I am dedicated to fostering communities of support and empathy. By sharing knowledge and personal insights, I strive to create a more compassionate world. Social

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