What are mental health difficulties and what helps?

What are mental health difficulties and what helps?

The most common difficulties with mental health are those which affect our emotional wellbeing. These include depression or anxiety, with symptoms such as profound sadness, lack of energy or unsettling agitation.  

Some people may also experience very significant difficulties with their mental wellbeing. This may include feelings of sadness or anxiety going on for a long time, or which are very overwhelming. Some people may experience thoughts of suicide. Others may have experiences where their sense of reality may be affected. For example, they may hear voices or experience thoughts and beliefs which are not real.  

If you are concerned an employee/apprentice may be having these types of experiences, it is important to signpost them to help from a GP or reputable support organisation as soon as possible.

What do we mean by mental health? 

Mental health and wellbeing, and poor mental health and wellbeing, cover a wide range of areas and it is helpful to have clear definitions of these. 

Mental Health

We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Our mental health can span from positive wellbeing to periods where our life and emotions feel very challenging, and even through to experiences of very significant poor wellbeing. 

Mental Wellbeing 

Mental wellbeing is the ability to engage with day to day life to have a good life and cope with stresses without them becoming overwhelming. It means we can work productively and have positive relationships. 

Poor Mental Health

Poor mental health exists when we experience times where we are unable to live life as we would wish, cope with day to day pressures of life, or work productively. We may feel our relationships and our contributions to our community are impaired. 

Mental Health Problems 

When the experiences of poor mental health goes on for some time, or are very severe, this is often considered to be a significant problem. Sometimes this may be diagnosed as a formal condition such as depression or clinical anxiety. Some people find these medical diagnoses helpful while some others find them unhelpful and feel these experiences should be seen as part of the human experience.

Common Mental Health Problems 

Many experiences of poor mental health are common such feelings of depression and anxiety. About one in four people will have these types of experiences every year. For some these experiences may be extremely distressing and debilitating. 

Severe Mental Health Problems

Some people have experiences that are very different to normal experience and which can be frightening and debilitating. Conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are less common than areas like depression and anxiety but can cause people to have substantial difficulties in life. People with these conditions will often need extensive support in their recovery to good mental health. 

Work-Related Stress 

Work-related stress is caused by excessive work pressure or demands. It is a significant cause of poor mental health. Work-related stress has a strong impact on sickness absence, staff turnover, quality of work and safety. Stress over time can contribute to the development of significant levels of anxiety, depression and sometimes other mental health problems.

Some tips and techniques

Many mental health charities now recommend techniques such as mindfulness, breathing exercises and grounding activities (that help you focus and feel grounded). Building these into your employees' or apprentices' day could help them support their own mental health.

Mindfulness resource on MIND website

Less Stress in 60 Seconds on SAMH website

Grounding Technique on Young Minds website

Breathing and relaxation exercises for stress on NHS.scot website

Five Steps to Wellbeing - MIND website

Read our useful guides

Cover of PDF file Mental Wellbeing - Support for Apprentices, showing a young man smiling at a work tableIn partnership with mental health charity Penumbra we have compiled four comprehensive guides to accompany this web resource. These two guides, for employers, will help you to support your apprentices' mental health at work. The two guides for apprentices can be found in our Mental Health resource for apprentices.

View PDF guide Mental Wellbeing - Support for Apprentices

View PDF guide Supporting Apprentices around Suicide and Self-Harm


Logo of mental health charity Penumbra

We are grateful to mental health charity Penumbra for providing advice and information on mental health for this resource. If any of your apprentices or other employees need support, you should encourage them to contact a GP or professional mental-health support organisation.

Find support organisations for mental health