Mental health conditions can significantly impact the lives of those affected by them, as well as the lives of their loved ones. Understanding the effects of mental health conditions can help increase awareness and understanding of the condition and its management. In this topic, we will explore the various effects of mental health conditions, including both short-term and long-term effects, and how they can impact an individual’s life.
The impact of mental health conditions from a global, individual and workplace perspective
Mental ill-health and mental illness significantly impact individuals and society as a whole. Some key impacts include the following:
- Global disease burden: Mental illness is a major global disease burden in terms of years lived with disability and premature death. According to a study published in the Lancet in 2016, mental illness is responsible for more years of life lost to disability than any other condition, including cancer and heart disease.
- National disability: Mental illness can lead to a significant amount of disability at a national level. This can include things like decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and reduced ability to participate in daily activities.
- Cost to the nation: Mental illness has a significant economic impact at a national level. This can include things like increased healthcare costs, decreased productivity, and increased absenteeism. According to a policy brief by Vigo, Thornicroft, and Atun, the estimated cost of mental illness to the global economy is $2.5 trillion annually, most of which is borne by low- and middle-income countries.
It’s important to note that mental health conditions are a problem for individuals and society as a whole. Understanding the impact of mental ill-health/illness in terms of its global and national disability and cost to the nation can help policymakers, healthcare professionals, and the public better understand the importance of addressing mental health and improving access to care.
Impact on the United Kingdom
Mental ill-health and mental illness have a significant impact in the UK. Some key statistics include:
- 1 in 4 adults experiences a mental health condition in a given year. This means that a large portion of the population is affected by mental health conditions at some point in their lives.
- Mental health conditions are the biggest single cause of disability in the UK. This means that mental health conditions have a greater impact on disability than any other condition.
- The wider economic costs of mental illness in England have been estimated at £105.2 billion yearly. This includes direct services costs, lost productivity at work and reduced quality of life.
- The number of people receiving The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended psychological therapies has more than doubled from 2013 to 2018. This suggests that more people seek help for mental health conditions and more services are available to meet their needs.
- 17% of the adult population dispensed antidepressant prescriptions. This suggests that many people are being prescribed medication to treat mental health conditions.
- The prevalence of children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition has increased to 35% in 2018. This suggests that more children and young people are experiencing mental health conditions than in the past.
These statistics demonstrate the significant impact of mental ill-health and mental illness in the UK, highlighting the need for continued focus on improving access to care and reducing the burden of mental illness on individuals and society as a whole.
Impact on the individual
The impact of mental health problems on the individual can be wide-ranging and can affect many aspects of a person’s life. Here is an overview of some of the potential impacts:
|Social and cultural exclusion and stigma||Mental health problems can lead to social and cultural exclusion, as people with mental health problems may be stigmatised or discriminated against by others. This can make it more difficult for people to form and maintain relationships, find employment, and participate in other aspects of society.|
|Low self-esteem and personal empowerment||Mental health problems can lead to low self-esteem, making it difficult for people to feel good about themselves and their abilities. This can make it more difficult for people to feel empowered and take control of their lives.|
|Reduced physical health||Mental health problems can lead to reduced physical health, as people with mental health problems are more likely to experience physical health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.|
|Reduced ability to form effective relationships||Mental health problems can lead to a reduced ability to form effective relationships, as people with mental health problems may struggle to trust others and form healthy, supportive relationships.|
|Education||Mental health problems can affect the ability to study and complete education. People with mental health problems may find it more difficult to concentrate, learn and retain information, and interact with others.|
|Risk of self-harm, substance misuse and suicide||Mental health problems can increase the risk of self-harm, substance misuse, and suicide. These behaviours can be a way for people to cope with their mental health problems and can put them at risk of serious harm.|
It’s important to note that the impact of mental health problems on an individual can vary depending on the person and the condition they are suffering from, and not everyone will experience all of the above impacts. And also, seeking professional help is important and can help manage the symptoms and improve the overall quality of life.
Impact on the workplace
Mental health problems can significantly impact the workplace, affecting both employees and employers. Here is an overview of some of the potential impacts:
|Absenteeism, increased sickness absence||Mental health problems can lead to increased absenteeism and sickness absence, as employees may take time off work to seek treatment or manage their symptoms. This can result in increased costs for employers and reduced productivity.|
|Poor health (depression, stress, burnout)||Mental health problems can lead to poor health, including depression, stress, and burnout. This can result in decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and reduced quality of life for employees.|
|Reduction in productivity and output||Mental health problems can reduce productivity and output, as employees may struggle to concentrate, make decisions, or complete tasks effectively.|
|Loss of motivation and commitment||Mental health problems can lead to a loss of motivation and commitment, as employees may struggle to find meaning or purpose in their work.|
|Increase in error rates||Mental health problems can increase error rates, as employees may struggle to concentrate or make decisions effectively.|
|Increased amount of accidents||Mental health problems can lead to increased accidents, as employees may struggle to focus or react quickly in high-pressure situations.|
|Poor decision-making||Mental health problems can lead to poor decision-making, as employees may struggle to weigh the pros and cons of their choices, think critically or make logical connections.|
|Deterioration in planning and control of work||Mental health problems can lead to deterioration in planning and control of work, as employees may struggle to organise their work effectively.|
It’s important to note that the impact of mental health problems in the workplace can vary depending on the person, the condition they are suffering from, and the nature of their work.
Role of Employers
Employers can play a vital role in creating a culture that promotes mental health and well-being and providing support to employees experiencing mental health problems by taking the following steps:
- Promote open communication: Encourage employees to speak openly about their mental health and well-being and provide a safe and non-judgmental space for them to do so.
- Educate employees and managers: Provide training and education on mental health and well-being, including the signs and symptoms of mental health problems and how to support someone experiencing a mental health problem.
- Create a supportive work environment: Foster a culture of respect, support, and understanding, and actively work to eliminate discrimination and stigmatisation.
- Support work-life balance: Encourage employees to take time off when they need it and provide flexible working arrangements, such as working from home or flexible hours, to help employees manage the demands of work and their personal lives.
- Provide Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): Confidential counselling and support to employees experiencing mental health problems. Ensure that employees are aware of the EAP and know how to access it.
- Regularly measure and review mental health: Regularly measure and review employee mental health and well-being and take action to address any issues.
- Create a culture of help-seeking: Create a culture where it’s safe and acceptable to seek help for mental health problems, and remove barriers to help-seeking, such as lack of access to mental health services.
- Encourage self-care: Encourage employees to take care of their physical and mental health, such as taking regular breaks, exercising, and eating well.
By taking these steps, employers can create a culture that promotes mental health and well-being and supports employees experiencing mental health problems. This can help employees to manage their symptoms better, improve their overall quality of life, and ultimately increase productivity in the workplace.
Know the signs and symptoms of common mental health conditions
Mental health conditions comprise a range of problems with different symptoms. Here is an overview of some of the general signs and symptoms of mental health conditions:
|Pulling away from people and usual activities||Withdrawing from social interactions, hobbies, and activities that were previously enjoyed can be a sign of a mental health condition.|
|Feeling numb or like nothing matters||Feeling detached, emotionless, or like nothing matters can signify a mental health condition.|
|Feeling helpless or hopeless||A sense of hopelessness or helplessness can signify a mental health condition.|
|Smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual||Using drugs or alcohol excessively as a way to cope with symptoms of a mental health condition.|
|Yelling or fighting with family and friends||Increased conflicts or fights with loved ones can signify a mental health condition.|
|Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships||Experiencing sudden and intense shifts in mood that affect relationships.|
|Having persistent thoughts and memories, you can’t get out of your head||Obsessive thoughts or memories that are difficult to shake can signify a mental health condition.|
|Hopelessness||A feeling of hopelessness or despair can signify a mental health condition.|
|Lack of motivation/energy||Lack of energy or motivation to do things can indicate a mental health condition.|
|Low self-esteem||Low self-esteem and feeling inadequate or worthless can signify a mental health condition.|
|Poor sleep patterns||Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much can signify a mental health condition.|
|Reduced appetite||Loss of appetite or changes in eating habits can signify a mental health condition.|
|Reduced sex drive||Reduced interest in sex or sexual activity can be a sign of a mental health condition|
|Constant worrying||Persistent worrying or anxiety can be a sign of a mental health condition.|
|Unpleasant physical symptoms (for example, panic attacks)||Physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, and shortness of breath can be a sign of a mental health condition such as panic disorder|
Common mental health problems
Common mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression disorders, are a group of mental health conditions that are characterised by symptoms such as low mood, anxiety, and changes in behaviour and thinking. They are considered “common” because they are relatively prevalent in the general population.
Examples of common mental health problems include depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorders. These conditions can often be seen as extreme versions of normal states, for example, everyday anxiety vs an anxiety disorder. Signs and symptoms of common mental health problems may include feelings of low mood, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities, as well as physical symptoms such as changes in appetite and sleep patterns.
On the other hand, severe mental illnesses are a group of mental health conditions that are characterised by more severe symptoms and can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to function in daily life. Examples of severe mental illnesses include schizophrenia and other psychoses, including bipolar disorder. These conditions are often characterised by symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and may require more intensive treatment and support.
It’s important to note that the distinction between common mental health problems and severe mental illnesses is not always clear-cut and that individuals may experience symptoms of both at different points in their lives. It’s also important to remember that everyone’s experience of mental health conditions is unique and can change over time.
Signs and symptoms of severe mental illness
Mental illnesses can range from common mental health problems to severe mental illnesses. Severe mental illnesses are a group of mental health conditions characterized by more severe symptoms and can significantly impact a person’s ability to function in daily life. Here is a list of some examples of severe mental illnesses, their signs, symptoms, and risks:
|Severe Mental Illness||Signs||Symptoms||Risks|
|Schizophrenia||Difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy, hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking||Disordered thinking, hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, loss of motivation, social withdrawal||Increased risk of suicide, substance abuse, and homelessness|
|Bipolar disorder||Extreme mood swings, manic episodes, depression episodes||Mania, depression, impulsivity, irritability, sleep disturbances||Increased risk of suicide, substance abuse, and relationship problems|
|Borderline Personality Disorder||Impulsive and reckless behaviour, intense and unstable relationships||Unstable self-image, emotions, and relationships, self-harm, impulsive behaviour, fear of abandonment||Increased risk of suicide, substance abuse, and relationship problems|
|Major Depressive Disorder||Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness||Low mood, loss of interest in activities, changes in sleep and appetite, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, thoughts of suicide||Increased risk of suicide, substance abuse, and relationship problems|
It’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive list and that many other severe mental illnesses exist. Additionally, everyone’s experience of mental health conditions is unique and can change over time. It’s important to seek professional help if you or someone you know is experiencing severe symptoms.