Work and mental health  

This resource is for people managing their own mental health at work. 

On this page: 

  • Is working good for my mental health? 
  • What if work is making my mental health worse? 
  • What if I’m unemployed? 

Is working good for my mental health?  

Many people find that working is good for their mental health. A job can help you look  after your mental health by providing: 

  • a source of income 
  • a sense of identity 
  • contact and friendship with others 
  • a steady routine and structure 
  • opportunities to contribute and gain skills. 

“We work closely together as a team and being part of that gives me a sense of self worth and builds my self-esteem.” 

At times your work may be affected by your mental health problem. For example, if you  are experiencing depression, you might feel so tired that you are unable to work. But with support from your employer, you can make some changes to help manage and  improve your mental health at work.

What if work is making my mental health worse?  

If work is having a negative effect on your mental health, try to figure out what is causing  this. It could be: 

  • suffering from workplace stress 
  • having poor relations with your colleagues 
  • doing a certain type of work 
  • being treated unfairly because of your mental health problem (experiencing stigma)
  • deciding whether to tell your employer about your mental health problem
  • worrying about returning to work after a period of poor mental health. 

“I was proud of my ability to keep my anxiety hidden from my colleagues and saw it as a  sign of strength. Until the day it became impossible.” 

Whether you have a mental health problem or not, your employer has a duty of care to  you under health and safety legislation. You have the right to work somewhere safe. This  means where any risks to your health are properly assessed and controlled. 

For more information, visit information from Equal Opportunities Commission – The Disability Discrimination Ordinance and People with a Mental Illness/Ex-mental Illness, and Hong Kong Community Legal Information Center – Disability Discrimination.

What is disability discrimination?  

Disability discrimination is when you’re treated badly because of having a disability, or  something related to being disabled. 

Under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance Cap 487, your mental health problem is a disability if it: 

  • “affects your thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or results in disturbed behaviour”
  • “results in you learning differently from a person without the disorder”
  • includes a disorder that presently exists or previously existed but no longer exists

You can also contact the Equal Opportunities Commission for independent help and advice.

How can I stay mentally healthy if I’m unemployed?  

You might be unemployed as a result of your mental health problem, or for reasons  which don’t involve your mental health. Some reasons could be: 

  • redundancy 
  • long-term sickness 
  • lack of opportunities 
  • relocation 
  • dismissal 
  • not being well enough to work. 

When looking for a new job, it can take time to find a suitable role, write applications and prepare for interviews. This can feel very challenging. 

You might also find that being unemployed affects your confidence. It can feel disappointing if employers don’t get back to you. See our pages  

on wellbeing and increasing your self-esteem for ways to look after yourself. 

“I was unemployed for quite a few years after being made redundant from my role at  another organisation. I went into a very bad state of mind.” 

Who can support me in finding a job?  

If you have a mental health problem, you may sometimes face barriers to finding employment. The following organisations can support you: 

What if I’m not well enough to work?  

If you’re not well enough to work, there are still ways of getting the benefits of having a  job. You can meet new people, gain skills and contribute to a community. If you feel able  to, you could consider the following activities: 

  • Try volunteering. For local volunteering ideas and opportunities, visit HandsOn Hong Kong
  • Join a community group. You could check local notice boards, social media groups and newspapers to see what’s on near you. 
  • Do a free course. Some colleges and universities offer distance learning courses that cost nothing at all. You can study remotely in your free time.

Sometimes you might even need to take a break from work for your mental health.

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