Why is it important to create a workplace that supports Mental Health?

Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, Rewards and Recognition

Work is a pivotal factor around which our entire life revolves. The more we work the more we will add to our income tally. Having said that income is directly proportional to our work, sometimes we prioritize work even ahead of our mental health. With most working-class mental health is something which is neglected the most.

It is commonly believed that mental health has nothing to do with the working capabilities of a person, but that is not the truth. Mental health can have a devastating impact on the productivity of the employees, moreover, it will attract absenteeism. Mental health affects the physical well being and someone who is struggling in himself cannot work to his potential.

While there is still a possibility of argument that is there actually a space for mental health evaluation programs at workplaces when there are other areas where immediate attention is required. Mental health might not appear as a serious matter upfront, but id definitely something from which any organization will look to shield its employees.

A large number of mental health cases remain unreported

Mental illness is still seen as a taboo, people generally don’t prefer to talk about it openly. Psychiatric disorder is often made a huge fuss and the patients are likely to remain silent about it. They keep their illness to themselves as long as they can. They only consult an expert when the situation is out of their hands. 18% of the employees in the age group 15-55 admitted that they had some kind of mental disorder in the past month. These are the statistics according to a survey conducted by the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey.

The awareness about mental illness is increasing and those are promising signs. But the bitter reality is that people still have to face discrimination when they report the mental illness. They fear other’s responses to their problems. The feeling of being left out and the fear of discrimination are among the reasons for people not willing to discuss their mental problems.

How to figure out if you are having a mental problem?

This is quite a tricky part, as mental problems show symptoms but not very clear ones. They might go undetected for months and surfaces when they have taken a severe mode. The onus is completely on the individual to identify if he’s having some kind of problems with his mental state.

Components of mental illness

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) contains an exhaustive list of all the mental problems. Here are the most frequently observed ones.

Depression- it is something that is common in the entire population and not just the workplace. 6% of the workforce reported signs of depression at some point in the year. It is believed to be an outcome of low mood. Symptoms of depression may include nervousness, restlessness, or irritability with anger being at the top.

Bipolar disorder- mood swings can be taken as a reference to understand it. A person suffering from bipolar disorder feels highly energetic and cheerful in the manic phase while he will feel depressed at other times. In the whereabouts of 1% of the total population of America was reported suffering from bipolar disorder.

 Anxiety disorders- They are quite difficult to diagnose, and they might even go undetected for years. There are instances when they were detected 5-10 years later.  Some common symptoms are feeling restlessness, fatigue, lack of concentration, and worrying excessively.

ADHD- earlier it was considered to be a problem only in the childhood phase, but recent studies suggest that adults too suffer from it. An international survey revealed that 3.5% of the workforce was suffering from ADHD. It may lead to a lack of management, failure to cope with deadlines, workload management, and difficulties in following instructions.

On what fronts an employee is likely to suffer due to mental problems

  1. Getting tired earlier than normal: if you are feeling that your capacity to work has reduced significantly over time, and you are facing difficulties in performing the routine tasks them mental problems might be the root cause.
  2. Thoughts of suicide are striking your mind more often than not. This is a clear indication that something is very wrong with you and you need immediate medical attention.
  3. If you have started to feel that there is something which is stopping you from getting on with life.
  4. Outbursts of anger are surfacing more often than not, while earlier it wasn’t the case.

Lack of confidence: It is often noticed that people suffering from some kind of mental disorder try to save themselves from responsibilities, they think that they won’t be able to perform them. This is certainly a worrying sign for an organization as having employees who aren’t committing themselves to the fullest isn’t enough.

Relationships are compromised: People with such mental issues corner themselves from relationships whether personal ones or the ones at the workplace with peers.

Worker safety might be compromised: When not in a healthy state of mind the person might not make the wisest choices available before them. They might lack at assessing possible hazards for them. Several distractions come into play when making future choices which might lead to wrong decisions taken.

How to look after your mental health at the workplace?

Your mental well being is in your hands and it’s in your interest to start giving some time to look after your mental health, at least any prudent person would have done accordingly. You may argue that my mental health is perfectly top-notch and there’s no need for all this. My friend bad times never come knocking at the doorsteps, you need to be well equipped in advance to tackle them.

Keep yourself active: If you are having a desk job like most others, then this is for you. Add exercising and doing physical activities in your daily routine. We are not expecting you to be a gym freak, going to the gym isn’t necessary at all. Doing some physical activities daily for 30 minutes in which you loosen up your muscles will be a great thing for you.

Relationships are must: Cornering you from the rest of the world and living a life in isolation is not good for your health. There will be times when life will get hold of you and you will need someone to share your problems. Make some relations in life they maybe your friends or family or anyone whose company makes you feel at ease.

Sharing your feelings, your ups and downs: Sharing of feelings is often mistaken as a sign of weakness, but that’s not the case. Sharing your feelings with someone actually helps in reducing the burden you are carrying. But the thing is that you cannot share your feelings with any random person. You need to look for someone who really understands you and will give you the right advice.

Have a healthy diet (with some cheat days allowed): What we eat impacts us physically and mentally too in the long run. Mend your eating habits. Try to reduce alcohol and tobacco consumption as much as possible. Try resorting to public eating at the workplace, it will give your mind some time to relax while being with your peers.

Roles of employers in addressing mental problems in the workforce

As an employer, you will be the first person to be informed about the problems a particular employee of yours is facing, if informed at all. You need to tackle this issue with care without making any rash decisions because that will impact both the individual and the organization.

Dealing with absenteeism on account of mental illness: While dealing with absenteeism on account of mental illness it’s the responsibility of an employer to enquire about the time frame the employee will be unavailable. Organizations with high standards can arrange for a statement of fitness to work from a doctor. Avoid taking strict actions against the employees without knowing the issue in detail.

Performance appraisal by the management: It is a well-known fact that a cordial relationship between the manager and staff are always fruitful. Regular staff meetings and supervision sessions have shown a positive impact on the mental health of the employees. If there is any competence case needs to be addressed that has arisen on account of mental illness, handle it with utmost sincerity.

Try to mitigate job-related stress: Work stress is thus far the biggest contributor to mental illness. Employees take so much street about their work that they end up hampering their mental state. This can be reduced by implementing healthier supervision, expecting realistic work demands from the employees, making ample resources available to the workforce, making provisions for regular work breaks.

Raise worker awareness of mental health: Make the importance of sound mental health felt to the employees, it will be in the interests of both the employees and the organization. Make them understand that mental well being should be given equal importance. This can be carried out through experts led talk shows, seminars, calling someone to share real-life experiences, etc.

Help your employees establish a Work-Life Balance: It falls in the share of duties for the employer to provide a healthy working environment for the workforce. Research has revealed that those workers who are exposed to work for long hours in the continuation are 33% more prone to depression, are 40% more likely to suffer financial woes and 12% more chances of suffering from work-related stress.

Mental health policies will help: Whether your organization is equipped to deal with mental health situations, needs to be addressed. You should have policies to tackle on-premises bullying, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace. If there are policies implemented already, have a timely review of those policies that they are still serving the intended purpose or are obsolete. Workers who have faced such problems can be asked for their opinions on such policies.

Encourage screenings: There are numerous screening tests available online which will help the employee evaluate their mental state. They absolutely free and don’t reveal anyone’s identity at all. The employers should provide resources to their employees to enable them to register into such programs.

We all face difficult times in life and could encounter mental health issues at any time. Being proactive and making sure your employees have the support they need at work can be a big part of their successful recovery.

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