Work, whether paid or unpaid, is an
important part of life. For many of us it is central to our
happiness. Work can:
- provide social contacts and support
- give us a way structuring and occupying
- keep us physically and mentally active
- give us an opportunity to develop and
- give us social status
- give us a sense of identity and personal
- provide the money and other resources needed
for material well-being.
Studies show that work is generally good for
health. As well as a financial reward, it gives many of us
self-esteem, companionship and status.
There is good evidence that being out of work
or 'workless' is bad for your health. People who
are unemployed have poorer physical and mental health overall. They
consult their GP more, are more likely to be admitted to hospital,
and have higher death rates. The figures are stark. For
example, people who are unemployed for more than 12
weeks are between 4 and 10 times more likely to
suffer from depression and anxiety. Unemployment is also linked
with increased rates of suicide. People who are ill are
also more likely to be unable to work. But, the
consensus is that being 'workless' is the cause, and poor health is
studies go so far as to conclude that the risk to health of being
out of work, in the longer term, is greater than the risk of other
killer diseases such as heart disease.
Returning to work after a period of illness,
including mental ill-health, actually helps recovery and is
the best way to prevent long-term sickness. The health status
of people of all ages improves when they move off benefits and into
work. This is true for people with mild or severe mental
health problems. It is not surprising then, that the vast
majority of people who are out of work, and use mental health
services, want to return to or to start work.
This assumes that your work is safe and
satisfying. Some workplaces are unhealthy, and may have helped
to contribute to or exacerbate mental ill-health in the first
place. So returning to work or starting to work after a
period of mental ill-health has to be the right work, in the right
place, with support from colleagues, carers and health
‘Everyone has a right to work, to free
choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and
to protection against unemployment’.
Article 23 of the
United Nations Declaration of Human Rights
Links to resources:
Health and Work: Changing how we think about
common health problems
Kim Burton and Gordon
This leaflet is aimed at helping employees get
back to health and work. It includes some common myths and the
realities of the links between work and health as well as practical
advice on overcoming obstacles to recovery and work.
Building a career of your choice
Waghorn, G., Harris,
M., Cleary, C., King, J., and Lloyd, C. Canberra: Australian
Government Department of Health and Ageing, 2008.
This booklet was developed at the Queensland
Centre for Mental Health Research in Australia. It was
written for people with severe mental illness, their friends,
carers and health professionals. The booklet addresses common
questions about employment and mental ill-health.
Rethink is a mental health membership charity
which works to help everyone affected by severe mental illness to
recover a better quality of life.
This section of the website contains lots of
links and information on
living with mental illness and how this impacts on
MIND – for better
Mind is a mental health charity in England and
Wales which aims to help people take control of their mental
health, by providing high-quality information and advice, and
campaigning to promote and protect good mental health for
everyone. For example, MIND run two telephone help lines:
Mindinfoline provides information on
a range of topics and can also put you in touch with help and
support in your area.
Legal Advice Service provides legal
information and general advice including discrimination/equality
and human rights advice relating to mental health issues.
Working UK – promoting well-being
This website is primarily aimed at health
professionals. However, the leaflets and guidance section of
the website contains lots of information for patients. There
are resources which are specifically for people with different
health conditions, including mental ill-health, who are returning
This website was developed for people with
chronic fluctuating health conditions. Although it is aimed
explicitly at people with Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, diabetes,
HIV/AIDS, Parkinsons and arthritis, many of the resources may be
useful for people with mental health problems.
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