General Information

Mental wellbeing

mental-wellbeingMental wellbeing is how we think and feel about ourselves and others, and how well we are able to cope with life: our resilience.

To achieve and maintain mental wellbeing we need to believe in ourselves and maintain our dignity and self worth. This can be through some sort of meaningful activity or purpose, either through paid employment or voluntary work.

It is also important to connect with others to maintain positive relationships and to receive respect from those around us.

Physical activity and health are important factors to maintain a good balance. Endorphins are released during exercise, they make us feel upbeat and improve our mood.

Did you know that mental health issues including stress, anxiety and depression are the reason for one in five visits to GPs?

According to the Health & Safety Executive, 9.9 million working days were lost in 2014/15 due to stress, depression or anxiety.

Overall, depression occurs in one out of 10 adults in Britain at any one time, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Find out more about the following mental health issues:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Other mental health conditions
  • Severe distress


Pressure is part of everyday life, and can be a positive motivator for us to achieve, however when pressure becomes excessive or continues for a long period it can turn to stress.

‘A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’ – Oxford English Dictionary.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as ‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed on them at work.’

Managers should be familiar with the Health and Safety Executive Management Standards for Stress as described at The standards will assist in checking whether a poor working design has the potential to contribute to stress related illness.

One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year. (Source: Mind) 

Signs and symptoms of stress are defined by four categories:

Physical    Behavioural
headaches    unsociability 
skin rashes anti-social behaviour
indigestion  restlessness 
palpitations  unable to unwind
allergies  loss of appetite
breathlessness  overeating
nausea  loss of libido 
sweating  bad driving
muscle twitches  disturbed sleep 
clenched fists/jaw  impaired speech
tiredness  use of alcohol 
fainting  poor time management
aches and pains  smoking more 
frequent colds/flu  taking work home more
constipation/diarrhoea  lying 
rapid weight gain/loss  voice tremor
Emotional         Mental
irritability   indecision 
demotivated  impaired judgement
more suspicious memory failing 
reduced self-esteem hasty decisions
gloomy  loss of concentration
job dissatisfaction less sensitive
fussy  tunnel vision 
loss of confidence less intuitive
tense bad dreams
drained nightmares
no enthusiasm worrying
cynical nervous/apprehensive muddled thinking 

More information on dealing with personal stress is available at


It is normal to feel anxious occasionally as a response to stressful situations or uncertainty. If anxiety begins to impair how we function in our everyday lives or we experience any physical symptoms, Silvercloud is an online Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) service and part of the Student Wellbeing Service but is also available to University staff. 

Anxiety can take the form of phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks and generalised anxiety. It may be useful to seek assistance from the University’s Occupational Health Service in the first instance, via referral from your line manager or Human Resources (HR). The Occupational Health Service may recommend referral to your GP if appropriate


Depression in simple terms means low mood but there is a scale which ranges from low spirits to a severe issue which interferes with normal everyday life.

Depression is relatively common and can be treated quickly, often without recurrence. It can become a significant problem if the feelings don’t disappear after a few weeks of if they return again and again. It is important to seek help if this is the case.

University of Portsmouth Occupational Health Physician advice

Dr Deborah Kerr, one of the University’s Occupational Health physicians, recommends the following actions to improve your mood:

Reduce the following:

Increase the following:

  • regular meals (low sugar preferably)
  • relaxation (warm bath, yoga, deep breathing, hobbies, music)
  • exercise (serotonin releasing)
  • sleep hygiene
  • problem solving/sharing (stress diary)
  • positive thoughts (NHS Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT, Silvercloud, Employee Assistance Programme EAP)

This downloadable document by Dr Deborah Kerr, Occupational Health Physician, gives further information on stress busting techniques:

Energy Resilience

Other mental health conditions

For more information about other mental health conditions, please visit the Mind website.

Severe distress

In very severe bouts of mental distress, a person may feel that they cannot carry on. In this case it can be hard for the person to understand that they are not alone and that there is someone for them to talk through who will listen and understand.

If you or someone you know has thoughts about suicide, please read the Royal College of Psychiatrists comprehensive information at

If a member of staff makes you aware that they are having suicidal intentions or thoughts, please refer immediately to Occupational Health.

The University Chaplaincy operates an out of hours, on-call service for staff or students in times of major distress. To contact them for support, please phone the Security Lodge on 023 9284 3418.

Other sources of help and support

The Samaritans are a charity that offers independent advice and guidance for those struggling or who know someone that is struggling. They are available 24 hours a day. You can contact them on 08457 90 90 90 or visit

Referral to Occupational Health

Line Managers should refer to the Occupational Health Service where it appears that health is being affected by stress or other mental health conditions, whether or not work related. Referral should also be made where health is impacting on an individual’s ability to do their job.  
The Occupational Health Service can be contacted on 02392 843187 (internal ext 3187) or email


‘Resilience is the ability to bounce back from tough times, or even to triumph in the face of adversity; to display tenacity but not at the expense of reason. Resilient people know that they will sometimes experience failure – but they see it not as something to dwell on, but as an opportunity to move forward, accepting that failure is a part of life. Inextricably linked with accepting responsibility resilience is about not reacting too emotionally, but keeping your head.’ Nicholson McBride.

The five key elements of resilience

  • optimism
  • solution orientation
  • individual accountability
  • openness and flexibility
  • managing Stress and anxiety

Download a short questionnaire and a report exploring personal resilience (Nicholson McBride's Resilience Quotient Questionnaire) at

To explore your resilience in relation to work, visit

‘Resilient individuals are able to sustain successful performance and positive wellbeing in the face of adverse conditions, and to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.’ Robertson Cooper

Building resilience

The Magnificent Seven or ways to balance the stresses over which you have no control:

  • increase the amount of enjoyment in your life
  • change an aspect of your routine which is becoming part of your stress
  • define your ‘corridor’ which separates work from home
  • exercise
  • do something kind every day
  • avoid thinking of the past as a ‘golden era’
  • avoid the short-term fixes

‘The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.’ Nelson Mandela.

‘Stress the Positive’ event for University staff

Stress the Positive is a quarterly workshop run by Occupational Health Service nurses and open to staff looking to explore personal wellbeing and reduce stress in their lives. The workshop includes group discussion and practical activities plus a relaxation session using breathing techniques.

Mini Mental Health MOT

The Occupational Health Service run this health promotion all year round for staff.  For further information please visit:

Other sources of information

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your symptoms and need more urgent support please contact the University Employee Assistance Programme on 0845 330 5132 (free from a UK landline) to talk to a trained counsellor, The Samaritans Freephone 116 123 (UK), or Mind.

Download the University’s Learning and Development Top Tips for personal resilience.

Goal setting

One of the key elements of mental wellbeing is to have meaning and purpose within our lives.

One way to achieve this in a work capacity is to know and act on the many opportunities available to us as members of staff of the University. It is important to feel fulfilled in our work.

The following links may give you some further focus:

University Chaplaincy

The University Chaplains are on hand to offer confidential support, information and advice to staff and students of all faiths and none, and to explore with them issues that relate to values, meaning and purpose in Higher Education.

To find out more about the work of the University Chaplaincy and if they could help you, please visit

The Chaplaincy Suite at Nuffield Centre can be used for events or simply as a space for quiet time or reflection. The Chaplains will always be happy to see you. The suite is open on weekdays 9.00am-5.00pm (4.00pm on Fridays).


Sleep is one of the ways that our body refuels ready for the next day. It is important to relax, unwind, rest and benefit from good quality sleep.

Download the Mental Health Foundation - How to sleep better, a comprehensive booklet on the factors which affect sleep, the benefits of it and top tips on how to sleep better.

Self help information

  • Online wellbeing self-assessment by NHS Choices. This resources focuses on the five areas which impact upon our wellbeing; physical activity, connecting with others, learning, awareness and giving to others. Complete the self-assessment to find out which areas of your life could do with some work here.
  • Mind the Gap – Mindfulness Training:
  • Living Life to the Full - dealing with low self-esteem:
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Skills and to prevent and cope with depression: Moodgym and Silvercloud (Silvercloud is part of our Student Wellbeing Service but is also available to staff)

Recommended reading

  • How to Have a Brilliant Life by Michael Heppell. You can preview the content of the book online at Amazon

Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

University staff can access an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provided by Right Management.

For more information go to Employee Assistance Programme.

More sources of guidance and advice