Make mental health and wellbeing a priority for everyone

By Emma McClelland - 10 October 2022

Much of what we do at the Work Rights Centre sits at the intersection of employment rights, social welfare and professional mobility. Our beneficiaries often come to us with multi-dimensional challenges that require our advisers to step back, take in the whole picture, and respond as holistically as possible. But, whatever the circumstances, it's rare that people do not mention their mental health in one way or another.  

As today is World Mental Health Day, we wanted to take the opportunity to share some advice and resources for those who may find themselves struggling. Immense pressure - the kind faced by many of our beneficiaries - can trigger poor mental health, as can a 'toxic' work environment or the loss of employment, both of which can damage one's sense of self-worth.

Mental health and the workplace

Time spent at work can impact people's wellbeing positively or negatively. For those with supportive managers, collaborative colleagues and a respectful working environment, it can be life-enhancing. But, for too many people, exploitative practices and bullying behaviours have the opposite effect. 

A study carried out by The University of South Australia and published in the British Medical Journal found that working for a company that disregards your psychological wellbeing triples your chance of suffering major depression. When you factor in other stressors (discrimination, non-payment of wages, or bullying) the scale of the issue really comes into focus. Our experiences at work can cause lasting damage to our psychological and emotional wellbeing. 

So, what should you do if you're stuck in a negative work environment? One of our advisers recently shared this article, which outlines the warning signs of a 'toxic' workplace and provides some useful advice on moving on after a bad experience. But the best thing to do when an environment has become 'toxic' is to leave it. So, if you need help finding alternative employment, get in touch. Our employability advisers can help you rewrite your CV and apply for jobs. 

Mental health and unemployment 

Unemployment has consistently been found to have a negative effect on people's health. Often, this is because they lose the structure that having a job provides, but it can also be a result of the stigma of unemployment. In addition, navigating the social welfare system can be a stressful and dispiriting experience, especially for migrant workers unfamiliar with the UK's bureaucratic systems. 

While it can be tempting to find casual work as a quick source of income, we believe that a good job means more than just getting by. It's about long-term security for you and your family, and it should be something that treats you well and pays you fairly. Finding good work can take time, confidence and employability skills, which our advisers can help you with (just get in touch). We've also developed a CV-builder tool, to help you create a professionally formatted CV, which you can access here.

Mental health and finances

Many of our beneficiaries work precariously, in jobs that are low-paid, with irregular hours. In these situations, it is almost impossible to build up savings. When times get tough, they are put at risk of falling into poverty. Over the past couple of years financial stress has been compounded not only by the pandemic, where many people lost their jobs or saw their income fall, but also by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and the government's refusal to improve the country's miserly social welfare system. 

According to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, financial troubles hinder recovery rates for common mental health conditions. They claim that people with depression and problem debt are 4.2 times more likely to still have depression 18 months later than people who are not in financial difficulty. The Institute found that almost 40% of people with a mental health problem say their financial situation worsens their mental health problems. If you're struggling with social welfare, check out our guide to Universal Credit, and don't hesitate to get in touch if you need to. 

Moving forward

At the Work Rights Centre, we use our research to call for policy change, which is one of the most effective ways of challenging the deep-rooted issues of precarious work, ineffective social security, and poor social mobility. But we also develop resources to provide support in the short-term, including our cost-of-living guide, which outlines some sources of support - for migrants and Britons, for workers, pensioners and parents. 

Seeking help - for your finances, employability or mental health - is one of the best things you can do for yourself if you are struggling. Your wellbeing matters - and it matters across all of these areas of life. By asking for support, you are treating yourself with compassion and respect, taking care of your mental health, and moving towards a brighter future. While organisations like the World Health Organisation work to make mental health and wellbeing a priority for all, let's each work to make it a priority for ourselves.

For 24-hour support with your mental health, please call the Samaritans on 116 123. 

To get help with employment, benefits, immigration, or leaving a toxic job, our team is one click away.

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