Work Can Significantly Impact Your Mental Health

Most of us spend a majority of our time at work, making it no surprise that the work environment plays a significant role in our mental health. An estimated 1 in 5 people have a diagnosable mental health disorder, further highlighting the importance for employers to proactively create a positive work environment.

Most Americans lack access to care. In fact, Mental Health America says 56% of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment. As an employer, investing in mental health treatment for employees is shown to lead to a more productive atmosphere, lower medical costs, lower absenteeism and lower cost to organizations for disability claims.


“Bring in a mental health professional to talk to all staff about signs of mental health problems. The professional will provide tools, techniques and resources to improve employees’ mental health and stress management,” said Caitlin Deady, LSCW, therapist at Memorial Behavioral Health–Counseling Associates. “When employers take steps to make employees feel valued, appreciated and cared for, they in turn become empowered and motivated to do their best work.”

Stigma surrounding mental health and lack of available treatment options is a large factor for not seeking treatment. Employers need to communicate what benefits employees have access to: a comprehensive insurance plan, access to employee assistance programs that cover mental health and substance use services. Even providing incentives for maintaining their mental and physical health, offering gym memberships or discounts and addressing reports of harassment can create an environment where employees feel safe.


“It’s important to notice how your mental health is affecting your job and vice versa, so it’s good to know the signs of burnout so you can be proactive and get help,”  Deady said. “It’s common to relapse if you have a mental health issue, especially if you are not paying attention to the “red flags of relapse.”

Signs of physical and emotional exhaustion:

  • Chronic fatigue, poor sleep
  • Forgetfulness or impaired concentration and attention
  • Physical symptoms such as breathing/chest/abdominal/chronic pain
  • Becoming physically sick easier or more often
  • Loss of appetite or eating too much
  • Worrying about job performance that may become catastrophic
  • Depression ranging from sad to hopeless or pessimism about the future
  • Anger, from interpersonal tension with peers to full-out arguments
  • Isolation or detachment from co-workers or family
  • Lack of productivity and poor performance
  • Feeling like all you do is work but you never get anything done

If you notice signs of burnout, consider if you’re creating more stress by not having a healthy work-life balance, and get support as soon as possible. It can be difficult to discuss your mental health with your employer. However, educate yourself on your rights as an employee and what services your employer offers.

If you are struggling to maintain manageable goals and are constantly overwhelmed, it may be time to get professional support.

Caitlin Deady is a licensed clinical social worker who provides a full range of mental health services to patients ages 10 and older. Her treatment areas include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, trauma, grief, adjustment disorders and coping with life transitions. Her professional experience includes cognitive behavioral therapy, person-centered psychotherapy, mindfulness-based therapeutic techniques and motivational interviewing. She has a bachelor’s in sociology and anthropology from Lake Forest College and a master’s in social work from Illinois State University.

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