What exactly is Mental Health? What are the signs and symptoms? Understanding is key to prevention and identifying what specific actions need to be taken.

What is Mental Health and PTSD?

Mental health, like physical health, can fluctuate on a spectrum from good to poor. Mental health problems can therefore affect any of us irrespective of age, personality or background. They can appear as a result of experiences in both our personal and working lives – or they can just happen. One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year. Employees may be affected directly or indirectly, if partners, dependants or other family members have mental health problems, which in turn impact on the employee’s own health;

“Mental health is the mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with the normal stresses of everyday life”

There are many ways to explain the specifics behind Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD, some of which would leave you more confused than before you asked the question, after all the human mind is a very complex and yet wonderful computer. However, I personally found that the statement below describes it in the best way;

“If something extremely traumatic or life threatening happens to us or if we see it happen to someone else, it can affect us physically and mentally, affecting the way we think about things. You might develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD, if you experience something where you feel really frightened, helpless or like you might die".

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms will vary, as each person’s experience of mental ill health is different, but there are some potential indicators to look out for. However, if one or more of these signs is observed, this does not automatically mean the employee has a mental health problem – it could be a sign of another health issue or something else entirely. Always take care not to make assumptions or listen to third party gossip and to talk to the person directly.

  • Emotional - Individuals who are struggling with their mental health may seem irritable, sensitive to criticism, demonstrate an uncharacteristic loss of confidence or seem to lose their sense of humour.
  • Cognitive - An individual may make more mistakes than usual, have problems making decisions, or not be able to concentrate. Look out for any sudden and unexplained drop in performance at work.
  • Behavioural - This could include things like being late, not taking lunch breaks, taking unofficial time off, not joining in office banter, or not hitting deadlines, becoming more introvert or extroverted, generally acting out of character.
  • Physical - People who are stressed sometimes exhibit physical symptoms such as having a constant cold, being tired at work, looking like they haven’t made an effort with their appearance, or rapid weight loss or gain.
  • Business - At a business level, look out for increased sickness absences or staff turnover. Have you noticed employees working longer hours or a general drop in motivation or productivity levels?

Should someone demonstrate a variety of more extreme symptoms, especially after being involved in or witnessing a traumatic event, this may be a sign that they are experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD as it is more widely known. The following are some of the most common symptoms of PTSD that you, your Partner, Family, Friends and those around you may have noticed:

  • Feeling upset by things that remind you of what happened
  • Experiencing night tremors, vivid memories, or flashbacks of the event that make you feel like it’s happening all over again
  • Feeling emotionally cut off from others
  • Feeling numb or losing interest in the things you used to care about
  • Feeling consistently guarded
  • Feeling irritated, anxious and/or having angry outbursts
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Being jumpy or easily startled

It’s not just the symptoms of Mental Health and PTSD that impacts on your life, but also how you may react to them, which can disrupt your life. You may:

  • Frequently avoiding places, experiences or things that remind you of what happened, also known as "Triggers"
  • Consistent use of drink or drugs to numb your feelings
  • Consider harming yourself or others
  • Working all the time and generally keeping yourself busy, to occupy your mind
  • Pulling away from friends, family, loved ones and people in general, becoming isolated and a recluse.

What can be done


The importance of ensuring that individuals can gain information, support and assistance as soon as possible, cannot be underestimated. Therefore, Self-help is critical although should not be seen, as a long-term solution without the correct treatment from qualified personnel. However, with increasingly longer waiting times at our Doctors surgeries and mainstream charities, due to the overwhelming numbers, it is the next best thing.

Local Support

All over the country there are local support groups being set up, so those struggling with mental health challenges and PTSD, can get together with those who can relate to the issues faced on a daily basis. Many work alongside the major charities and organisations around, and can certainly provide a level of support, especially for the families and partners, whilst you await additional long term support. You can find your nearest local support group via the Self Help Map on our homepage.

Charities & Organisations

Along with those mainstream charities such as Combat Stress and Help for Heroes, there are also a whole host of smaller registered charities and social enterprise organisations, that provide a wide range of support and services, a selection of which can be found on our Support(link) page.

Contact Us

Tel: + 44 7434 006 110    Email: nick.wilson@forcesonline.org

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