Everyone's mental health varies during their life. Mental health exists on a broad continuum or range, from positive healthy functioning at one end, through to severe symptoms or conditions that impact on everyday life and activities at the other. Your mental health is not fixed or static, but moves back and forth on your own personal range in response to different stressors.
When someone has a mental health condition, it can impact on how they think, feel and behave. It may also impact on their physical health. Many people manage their mental health condition well and without it significantly affecting their work or life.
Mental health conditions can range from mild, lasting only a few weeks, to moderate and severe, impacting on all areas of a person's ability to function day to day.
As mental health conditions exist across a range, people can also experience some symptoms without having an illness.
With the right supports and treatments, most people affected by a mental health condition recover and lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Recovery is different for everyone. For some people recovery means no longer having symptoms, while for others it means learning to manage their symptoms.
Anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions experienced by people in Australia, and tend to affect people during their prime working years (16 to 64 years).1
Everyone's experience of mental health is different; the following information should be used as a guide only. Equally, having these symptoms doesn't necessarily mean you or someone you work with has a mental health condition or is feeling suicidal. For an accurate diagnosis and advice, it's important to see a health professional.
Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where we feel under pressure, it usually passes once the stressful situation is over, or the 'stressor' is removed.
Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don't subside - when they're ongoing and exist without any particular reason or cause. It's a serious condition that makes it hard to cope with daily life.
There are different anxiety conditions, each with their own set of symptoms. Only a health professional can provide a diagnosis and advice on treatment - visiting your GP is a good first step if you're unsure.
- hot and cold flushes
- racing heart
- tightening of the chest
- obsessive thinking
- compulsive behaviour
- 'snowballing' worries
Further reading and resources
While we all feel sad, moody or low from time to time, some people experience these feelings intensely for long periods of time (weeks, months or even years), and sometimes without any apparent reason. Depression is more than just a low mood - it's a serious condition that affects your physical and mental health.
People with depression usually experience symptoms for more than two weeks across at least three of the following categories:
Common general symptoms
- not going out anymore
- not getting things done at work
- withdrawing from close family and friends
- relying on alcohol and sedatives
- avoiding usual enjoyable activities
- having difficulty concentrating
- 'I'm a failure'
- 'It's my fault'
- 'Nothing good ever happens to me'
- 'I'm worthless'
- 'Life's not worth living'
- 'People would be better off without me'
- being constantly tired
- feeling sick and run-down
- having headaches and muscle pains
- a churning gut
- sleep problems
- loss or change of appetite
- experiencing significant weight loss or gain
Symptoms of someone experiencing mental health issues - at work
We've discussed what the symptoms of anxiety and depression can look like to help you reflect on your current state of mind.
Below are some examples of what behaviours can present when you or a staff member is experiencing mental health issues in a workplace or working environment.
These symptoms will be noticeable for more than two weeks and if they do not subside, it's important to see a health professional:
Signs and symptoms - at work
- not concentrating and performing work duties work
- not meeting deadlines
- attention to detail is less than usual
- less engaged than usual
- lower than usual work standards
- anti-social or withdrawn from colleagues, customers and clients
- not paying regulatory expenses, employee wages and service providers on time or at all
- negative and not solutions focused
- difficulty controlling behaviour at work
- absent from work
For information on other mental health conditions
While much of the information around mental health conditions on this site is directed for people with anxiety or depression, it can also be applied to help those with more severe conditions.
For information around more severe mental health conditions, such as Schizophrenia and other forms of psychotic illness, check out SANE and Black Dog Institute.
Further reading and resources
Sometimes life can present overwhelming situations that can be difficult to deal with, and people might consider suicide as a possible solution to end their pain. People with depression and anxiety are also more likely to attempt suicide than other people.
If you're worried about someone, talk to the person about what's going on and help them seek professional support.
Visit Suicide Prevention and Beyond Blue for more information on suicide prevention.
If you or someone in your workplace is in crisis and you think immediate action is needed, call emergency services (triple zero - 000), contact your doctor or local mental health crisis service, or go to your local hospital emergency department.
To talk to someone for support, call:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue Support Service 1300 224 636
Signs and symptoms - helping a workmate
If you're concerned that someone you work with doesn't quite seem themselves, starting a conversation and checking they're OK can make a real difference. Having a colleague show concern can often be a turning point, encouraging them to seek support. Remember, it's not your role to diagnose depression, anxiety or a related condition, or to provide counselling.
Are you noticing worrying signs from someone you work with?
Personal stories for the workplace
Watch people from a range of backgrounds talk about their experiences of mental health conditions in the workplace, and share their stories of recovery, support and resilience.
Need more information?
Beyond Blue has an extensive catalogue of resources for people who experience depression and anxiety, as well as for their colleagues and managers.
If you'd like to speak to someone about Beyond Blue information resources, or order them over the phone, please call the Beyond Blue Support Service on 1300 224 636.
The SANE Australia website has a range of fact sheets and podcasts to support people at work. You can also check out the Black Dog Institute's website for a range of tools and programs that may suit your needs.
Further reading and resources