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Help for employees

If you have a mental health condition or feel things at work are causing you stress, try accessing support to make things more manageable.

Workload, how change happens, the amount of support you get, dealing with the public or relationships with colleagues and managers may all contribute to your stress at work. But all the research suggests that going to work supports good mental wellbeing.

Sometimes, poor relationships at work may lead to feelings of bullying and harassment, which is very distressing. If you’re unhappy at work and finding it difficult to cope, there is support available.

Talk to your manager

If you think you’re struggling at work because of your mental health or that something at work is impacting on your mental health, it is a good idea to discuss it with your manager.

Talking to your manager as soon as possible may stop a small issue becoming much bigger. Your manager should be there to support you and you may be able to agree some changes which could make all the difference.

Occupational Health and HR

Try asking for a referral to your Occupational Health Service where a medical officer can assess your situation and prepare a report which will be available to your manager.

If you are on long-term sick leave, you may be asked to go for an Occupational Health assessment to determine whether you will be able to return to work in the foreseeable future. Occupational Health produce reports for your managers which may include information about whether suitable workplace changes could improve your ability to do your job.

In some circumstances it may appear unlikely that an effective return to work will be possible. Your management team would then have to decide how to resolve this.  

Reasonable adjustments

Employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled employees are not disadvantaged in the workplace or during recruitment. According to the Equality Act 2010 you are disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

Northern Ireland is not covered by the Equality Act 2010. In Northern Ireland disabled employees are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Special Educational Needs and Disability (NI) Order 2005 (SENDO).

Reasonable adjustments can be just as relevant for people with mental health problems as for those with physical disabilities and can often help people to stay in work.

The mental health charity Mind have produced a report. You might find it helpful to share this with your manager.

Stress risk assessments

Have a look at your department’s policies and procedures about what they offer to people who are struggling with stress or mental health issues.

For example, some departments help employees to write a Stress Risk Assessment which highlights the issues causing that person stress and the measures that will be put in place to reduce this.

HSE has a stress risk assessment template on their website. 

Wellbeing rooms or spaces

Some offices have wellbeing rooms or spaces. This might be somewhere quiet you can go for a few minutes just to relax. There might also be information there about local services, helplines, etc.

EAP or Welfare Services

Many civil servants have access either to a Welfare Service or to an Employee Assistance Provider (EAP). Information on what, if anything, is provided through your employer as part of their wellbeing agenda should be available in your office, perhaps on an intranet or on staff notice boards.

They should be able to link you up with useful support that they provide such as counselling or legal advice. Any counselling services provided should be entirely confidential and usually the waiting time is much less than for NHS services, so it is definitely worth finding out about this.


If you are a union member, your union may be able to advise you if you are having problems at work or represent you if any disciplinary procedure is under way. Do talk to your local representative about the support that might be available to you.

Health plans

Many people pay into some kind of health plan, for example through Benenden or Simply Health. People often forget that they’ve joined a scheme so it’s well worth checking if you’re paying into a plan.

If you are, find out what you’re entitled to. You could be missing out on some useful assistance.

Mental Health First Aiders

Some departments have started to train staff as Mental Health First Aiders. A Mental Health First Aider is someone who has done a two day course to help them better understand mental health issues and the support that is available to people with mental ill health.

It is worth finding out if you have Mental Health First Aiders in your workplace. They could provide a friendly listening ear as well as information about the places you might be able to go to get help.