Risk Factors to Mental ill Health

By Bill, posted
Mental ill health has the potential to affect everyone at some point in their lives. Despite this there are some key risk factors that can make an individual more prone to mental ill health than others. Here we look at three key factors that have been proven to cause mental ill health and explore how we can help each other within the workplace.

Genetic Predisposition

Research has indicated that if a relative has suffered with mental ill health it is likely to make an individual more susceptible to the same type of illness. Genetics are responsible for carrying our physical features alongside our psychological characteristics as well. 

This factor is not entirely related to the workplace but it could come up in conversation with an employee / colleague.

Remember to give that person your undivided attention and listen to them with empathy and non-judgmentally.


Being exposed to a traumatic event at any point in life may cause increased vulnerability to mental ill health. Below are examples of traumatic events that can lead to increased risk of mental ill health:

  • Unsupported bereavement / loss
  • Lack of care / neglect 
  • Social disadvantage
  • Victim of physical and / or psychological abuse

The individual without the proper support may suffer with mental ill health during such events and in some cases for the rest of their lives.

If a colleague or employee has opened up to you during a conversation about a traumatic event that they are struggling to deal with then consider signposting them to a relevant charity who can offer professional support.

Remember - You can only ever create a plan with someone and not for them

Alcohol & Drugs

Alcohol & drug misuse is likely to lead to an increased risk of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and will increase the risk of suicide. Individuals partaking in alcohol and / or drug misuse may also take longer to achieve a diagnosis about their condition and receive the appropriate treatment.

We tend to spend more time with each other at work than with our own families so in many cases the work colleague is in a good position to spot unsettling behaviour. For example this could be noticing that someone is drinking every night after work, and you can visibly see it affecting their mood and day-to-day functioning.

Remember - Never be afraid to start a conversation but expect that an individual may give you a good reason for their behaviour and may not require help

If you are unsure how you would even start helping someone in the workplace then perhaps consider becoming a first aider for mental health via an appropriate training course.

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