It is Stress Awareness Month, this has been held every April since 1992 to raise awareness of the causes and cures our modern stress epidemic. Over the last two years it has been the most challenging that we have ever faced and in 2020, a lot of people were so overwhelmed and they struggled seeking support. Right now it seems that more people than ever have experienced the feeling of stress, and research has found that in the last year 74% of UK adults have felt stressed and they feel that they cannot cope.

If you feel overwhelmed, overloaded by demands being places on you. Your initial reaction to being put under pressure is to feel upset, worried or unable to cope, you might describe yourself as feeling stressed. Most people see stress as a weakness, but stress is not a weakness, and no one should ever feel as though they should feel they will be judged to admit this. Lots of us experience stressful periods in our life time, and over a certain amount of time it can impact our physical and mental health.

The government’s Health and Safety Executive said that in the UK in 2020 to 2021, 822,000 workers reported that they experienced work-related stress, depression or anxiety. It has been reported that 2 in 5 employees reported that their mental health had worsened during the pandemic. But even before the pandemic, it was estimated that mental health issues cost the UK employers £45 billion a year, and it has been a issue that is needed to be tackled.

The law requires to all employers, and they should assess the potential risk from work-related stress and to take steps to tackle stress where it can be identified. It is known that not many employers are aware of their legal duties. Even though employers know the law requirements, it is not all down to the employer for your well-being, it is also your own responsibility to look after yourself in and out of work.

Although your managers and employees should take steps to spot anything that causes stress in the workplace by;

  • They should look out for colleagues who might be struggling and try to encourage them to seek help.
  • People should also take part in discussions about mental health.
  • As well as promoting open and honest conversations in the workplace.

Even though stress is not to be seen as a mental health issue, it can be the reason to cause these issues, and it can be considered a disability under the law if all the below apply;

  • It has a substantial adverse effect on life of an employee, this could mean that they cannot focus on a task or it takes them longer to do so.
  • It lasts at least 12 months, or is expected to.
  • It also affects their ability to do normal day to day tasks/activities- such as, interacting with people, following instructions or keeping to set working times.

Within the workplace it is important to create a supportive environment, where staff can openly talk about mental health, for example;

  • Making sure that employees have one to ones with their managers, to talk about any issues and problems they are having.
  • Encouraging positive mental health and arranging mental health awareness sessions, such as training, workshops or even appointing mental champions who staff can specifically talk to.
  • Treating mental health and physical health as equal, and making them both seem as important as one another.