Psychological Health at Work

by Dr Christopher C Ridgeway

Introduction

This topic is not meant to be the equivalent of a text book on clinical psychology or psychiatry. Nor is it intended to enable those who read it to become amateur psychologists. Its aim is to provide managers with the basic skills required to be able to identify staff who may be displaying behaviour(s) which could be the result of mental health issues(s), and then to assess what the next step might be. The topic will help you to determine when a professional (external or internal) might be most effective and efficient in identifying the nature of the problem and assessing the severity of the presenting psychological symptoms. A description of the possible causes and potential treatments of the psychological distress is then provided. This will facilitate management decisions, if necessary, about who is best able to provide treatment and how long the treatment might last.

Managers are also provided with a guide to what, during any treatment, they might do to ensure the most positive outcome is achieved.

Guidance is also provided on the legal position of staff who experience mental health distress, and managers who make decisions about it. Psychological health in relation to some specific groups, including women, ethnic minority groups and, older people, are then explored. Additionally, guidance is provided on staff who experience psychological distress and mental health issues resulting from alcohol or non-prescribed drug misuse or who are experiencing a life ‘crisis’.

To help managers deal with those who had psychological health problems and, as a result, have long- or short-term absence, return-to-work guidance is provided. Additionally, guidance is provided on what managers might do to manage future mental health issues.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which can occur in any organisation, but which is a high risk in certain fields, such as the emergency, military and medical services, is covered as a sub-topic within this topic.

Finally, there are lists of external organisations that exist to help with particular problems and definitions of the terms that psychologists and psychiatrists might use in their reports.

Psychological health problems currently exist in all organisations. Recent calculations suggest that around one in three or four people will experience mental health distress at some time in their lives. On this basis, it must be expected that at any time some staff in your organisation will be experiencing psychological distress. This will exhibit itself in absenteeism, increased labour turnover, ineffective performance and so on. Although mental health issues can be serious, most problems will be short term and have limited negative effects.

Managers not only need to be aware of psychological health issues, but they should also be able to also manage them successfully. This topic aims to help you do just that.