Latest News from BPCA

30 April 2020

Keep rats out of the attic: mental health resilience for pest pros

Health | PPC99 May 2020

We all know that we have to look after our physical health when we’re working, but how often do we stop and think about our mental wellbeing?

BPCA Marketing and Communications Officer, Kat Shaw, takes a look at how mental health can affect people at work and the impact of Covid-19 on mental wellbeing.


  • Mental health refers to our behavioural and emotional wellbeing
  • 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year in the UK
  • In most cases people’s mental health problems are a combination of problems they face at work and at home
  • Employers have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of staff, and to assess the risk of stress-related ill health.


The overwhelming majority of people have all had that moment, where life can feel like it gets on top of us.

When we made the decision at BPCA to write this article for PPC magazine, Covid-19 had yet to be declared a pandemic.

With 44% of pest professionals in our recent survey reporting that Covid-19 has affected their mental health, many of us will be experiencing that overwhelmed feeling right now.

That’s why it’s more important than ever that we discuss mental health openly.

What is mental health?

Mental health refers to our behavioural and emotional wellbeing. Like physical health, it can range from good to poor and everywhere in between.

Mental health problems can affect anyone regardless of age, ethnicity or background.

They can appear as a result of experiences in both our personal and working lives – or they can just happen.

Mental health problems can affect the way people think, feel or behave; sometimes seriously limiting a person’s ability to cope with day-to-day life, which can impact on relationships, work and quality of life.

However, many people can effectively manage their mental health problems alongside the demands of a job and daily life, sometimes with treatment and support.

The most important thing to remember is this: everyone’s experience of mental health is different. Two people with the same condition may have entirely different symptoms and coping mechanisms.

Mental health problems are not just limited to depression and anxiety. They can range from phobias to personality disorders to psychosis and more.

1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year in the UK


  • In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week
  • Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK
  • 70-75% of people with diagnosable mental illness receive no treatment at all
  • Mental health is responsible for 72 million working days lost and costs businesses £34.9bn each year
  • People with long-term mental health conditions lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition. This equates to 300,000 people – the equivalent of the population of Newcastle.

Source: Mind UK – statistics are from a survey conducted every seven years and last taken in 2016


During Covid-19

  • Over 4 in 5 adults in Great Britain (84.2%) said they were very worried or somewhat worried about the effect that the coronavirus is having on their life right now
  • Just over half of adults (53.1%) said it was affecting their well-being
  • Nearly half of adults (46.9%) reported high levels of anxiety
  • Just over 1 in 5 adults (22.9%) said it was affecting their household finances
  • Staying in touch with friends and family remotely was the most common action that is helping people cope with staying at home (76.9%).

Source: Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain – Office of National Statistics, April 2020


Supporting staff with mental health issues

In 2017, the UK Government commissioned the Thriving at Work report, which showed that people with mental health problems still feel stigmatised, and are not getting the support they need at work.

At the same time, many employers are unsure about what they can do to provide that support - or if they even should.

Some employers may feel it is not their responsibility to intervene and support staff.

However in most cases people’s mental health problems are a combination of problems they face at work and at home.

For example, someone experiencing the loss of a loved one might find that their workload, previously manageable, is now beyond them. Being able to support an employee through those difficult periods is in every employer’s interests.

It can lead to a workforce which feels more valued and is more positive about the organisation. It will lead to fewer sick days, higher productivity and generally a happier staff team.

It’s also important to remember how the law views mental health and the workplace.

Mental health conditions which have a long-term adverse impact on someone’s ability to perform day-to-day activities will be regarded as disabilities and anyone with a mental health issue like this is protected under the Equality Act 2010.

You also have a responsibility as an employer to ensure the health and safety of your staff and to assess the risk of stress-related ill health.

Some employers may feel it is not their responsibility to intervene and support staff. However in most cases people’s mental health problems are a combination of problems they face at work and at home.

Kat Shaw, BPCA

How can you help?

Think about the following:

  • Consider implementing an employee health and wellbeing programme. These are designed to help staff overcome or deal with wellbeing challenges and can come in many forms. These programmes provide a mutual benefit for employers and employees
  • Good management can be crucial in maintaining the wellbeing of staff. It’s often said that employees do not leave a bad workplace, they leave a bad manager. Poor management can exacerbate mental health problems, leading to longer sickness absence and staff turnover
  • Take part in training programmes which will help you recognise the early signs of mental health issues, and give you the tools and skills you need to deal with these sensitively. Mind has some fantastic training courses for managers
  • Train a mental health first aider and support them to support your staff.

Self care

Recognise the signs

Symptoms and signs of mental illness can vary depending on the disorder and other factors.

Some signs that you might be suffering from mental health issues:

  • Feeling sad or down, sometimes for what seems like no reason
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Feeling fatigued or struggling to sleep
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily life and stresses
  • Problems with alcohol or drug use
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Sex drive changes
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking.

Working on your own, and protecting your mental wellbeing

The impact on mental health and wellbeing due to Covid-19 can’t be underestimated.

Many of us who are used to interaction every single day are now potentially isolating or working from home.

As a pest professional you’re probably used to working from your home or your van. But with Covid-19, it’s likely that you see your teammates and customers even less now.

The world can begin to feel much more insular and you may feel bored, lonely, frustrated or anxious.

It’s important during this time to stay connected, with friends and family by phone, text, video call.

A good suggestion for during the work day is to take the opportunity to make a telephone call instead of sending an email, whether that’s with colleagues or customers.

Hearing a voice at the end of the phone can be a huge comfort for many – maybe you aren’t even doing it for yourself, but because you suspect the person on the other end of the phone may be suffering from loneliness.

As an employer you should bear in mind that these are very unusual times, and employees are more likely to feel stressed as a result.

Make sure that you continue to communicate any changes or news about the business as openly as possible. Keep an open door for staff to voice their worries, and be prepared for staff to be unwell and possibly absent as a result of mental health issues.

It’s completely normal to feel scared, helpless, anxious or depressed about current circumstances.

Find someone who you trust and talk to them. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to somebody you know, there are helplines available.

The NHS has some great advice for taking care of your mental wellbeing during the lockdown.




Guidance for supporting your mental health while working from home

NHS – how to access mental health services

Anxiety UK
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
03444 775 774

The Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
0800 58 58 58

Men’s Health Forum
A charity supporting men’s health in England, Wales and Scotland.

Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.

Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
0300 123 3393

No Panic
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.
0844 967 4848

Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
0300 5000 927

Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)

Source: PPC99

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