How to spot the signs of poor mental health

Written by
Poppy Jaman

26 Apr 2017

26 Apr 2017 • by Poppy Jaman

Employers across the UK are failing to provide adequate support to employees or equip managers with the skills to help them, found the Mental Health at Work report released this week

More than three quarters (77%) of employees have experienced symptoms of poor mental health in their lives, and managers are underequipped and unsupported to respond to mental health in work. Managers do want to help - 76% believe that staff wellbeing is their responsibility, yet 80% say organisational barriers prevent them from delivering on this. 
We at Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England are calling on employers to find out how they can support the mental wellbeing of their staff. 

Despite all the good work that’s being done to normalise conversations around mental health, stigma does still exist, which makes it hard for people to feel that they can talk openly about their mental wellbeing, particularly in the workplace. It’s vital that that more is done to encourage discussions about mental health, between colleagues and also between staff and their managers. 

To help tackle the stigma, MHFA England is calling on everyone to ‘Take 10 Together’ and have a 10 minute conversation with a friend, family member, or colleague about mental health. 

We all have mental health just as we have physical health, but it can seem more difficult to spot the signs of mental ill health – these are some things to look out for: 


People often undergo significant life changes without developing a mental health issue. But significant changes in someone’s work or personal life, including happy events, can prove stressful and challenging to adapt to. 

Here are just some of the sorts of circumstances which might trigger mental ill health:  

Personal life changes:
-    Bereavement
-    Divorce or relationship breakdown
-    Having children 
-    Health scares or physical illness

Changes at work:  
-    Starting a new job
-    Coping with an increased workload or a promotion 
-    Poor relationships with colleagues or managers
-    Redundancy, or fear of redundancy 

Signs to spot

Recognising a mental health issue is the first step in accessing the support needed to recover. Some signs of common mental health issues include:

-    Frequent headaches or stomach upsets 
-    Suffering from frequent minor illnesses
-    Difficulty sleeping or constant tiredness 
-    Being run down
-    Lack of care over appearance 
-    Sudden weight loss or gain 

Emotional and behavioural 
-    Irritability, aggression or tearfulness
-    Being withdrawn, not participating in conversations or social activities 
-    Increased arguments or conflict with others 
-    Erratic or socially unacceptable behaviour
-    Loss of humour
-    Indecision, inability to concentrate
-    Increased consumption of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and/or sedatives 
-    Being louder or more exuberant than usual 
-    Loss of confidence 
-    Difficulty remembering things

At work

Look out for these signs in the workplace that an employee may need support with their mental health: 

-    Increased errors, missing deadlines or forgetting tasks 
-    Taking on too much work and volunteering for every new project
-    Working too many hours – first in, last out, emailing out of hours or while on holiday
-    An employee who is normally punctual frequently arriving late
-    Increased sickness absence 
-    Becoming fixated with fair treatment and quick to use grievance procedures 

To find out how employers can support the wellbeing of their staff and demonstrate their commitment to World Mental Health Day, visit and download the free MHFA England Take 10 Together toolkit.   

For more guidance around how to approach and respond to a colleague who may be experiencing a mental health issue download the free Line Managers’ Resource at