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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness
Work and mental health

Working together to support people recovering from mental ill health at work

Try to ensure that any clinical interventions support a return to work.

Many people with mental ill-health can, and do, continue to work successfully.  In fact working can be part of the recovery process and in some people it can help prevent a mental health condition from getting worse. But, most people will need some type of support to stay in work and to continue to function well at work. 

Clinicians play an important role in changing how patients and their employers think about the relationship between recovery from mental ill-health and starting or returning to work.  The message for employers and patients is different from returning to work after a surgical procedure for example, where guidance quoted for returning to physical tasks may be six weeks to three months for most people depending on the nature of the work.  It is difficult to give such precise predictions for many mental health conditions, but we do know that the longer a person is off work the less likely they are to return.  For people with mental health problems it is important to begin preparations to return to work early in the treatment process.  Treatment and return to work efforts should be done in parallel and not sequentially.  It is important therefore to identify what type of tasks your patient can do and how work patterns can be changed to accommodate this. 

It makes good business sense for employers to ensure that they implement policies to support people with mental health conditions to work appropriately.  A healthy workplace protects and increases the productivity of employees by reducing staff absence as well as staff presenteeism where staff turn up to work but perform below their best. 


Whether you work in primary care settings, occupational health or in secondary care you have a key role to play in ensuring that the right adjustments are in place for people with a mental health condition to participate in work.  The first part of this support is the place that getting into or returning to work has in your patient’s care plan.  This section also includes information on how long people with mental health problems may be off work.


Links to resources:

Centre for Mental Health  has undertaken a number of projects on Recovery which aims to change the way in which mental health services and practice can be changed to help  people recover their lives.  The project has produced 10 top tips which are steps that each professional can take to move towards recovery-oriented practice. 

The Implementing Recovery Organisational Change (ImROC)  project carried out with the NHS confederation is concerned with the redesign of mental health services. 

The Centre for Mental Health has also produced research identifying the benefits of work on mental and physical health and well being as well as effective interventions to place and support people with established mental health problems in the workplace.

Fair deal for mental health is a campaign by the Royal College of Psychiatrists which includes work on Recovery as one of eight priority areas.  The recovery section  includes resources and case studies from around the UK.

Healthy Working UK
This website has been developed in collaboration with the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Faculty of Occupational Medicine and Society of Occupational Medicine and is based on the Healthy Working Wales pilot developed by Cardiff University and the Welsh Assembly Government. It provides GPs, primary healthcare professionals and clinicians working in secondary care, with timely access to information, training and decision aids to support the management of health and work, including guidance and decision aids on the Fit note

This section has resources on recovery including a guide for mental health professionals on supporting recovery, reflections and testimonies from mental health service users on their experiences of recovery. 

Mental Healthcare 
This website aims to provide up to date and reliable information about psychosis for family members and friends.  It includes resources from Institute of Psychiatry, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust with support from Rethink.  The website has sections on recovery  and also on employment

Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation is a leading mental health research, policy and service improvement charity.

Recovery and Resilience, March 2011 This report includes narratives from African, African-Caribbean and South Asian women's recovery from mental distress. The project was commissioned by the National Mental Health Development Unit and draws on positive stories of recovery and resilience and highlights what helped women from these communities in their healing process.


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Work and mental health for clinicians

Work is a key clinical outcome

Working together to support people recovering from mental ill health at work

Developing and supporting a return to work plan