Mental health problems at work are not being discussed enough.
A survey of Americans between the age of 18 and 54, who also happened to be in the workforce in one capacity or the other, yielded some interesting results. About 18% of the respondents admitted to having suffered a mental breakdown in the past month alone. Dragging that timeframe further back, it would have been a higher percentage.
The Risks at Work
Companies and brands are highly responsible for their workforce more than simply paying wages and salaries.
A healthy workforce makes up a healthy company. Looking at the numbers, depression, and anxiety alone costs the US about $1 trillion in productivity every year. That is not a cost that the country alone will bear. It is a factor of all the collective companies whose employees are not of sound mental health.
When at work, some of the risk factors that could trigger poor mental health in employees include, but are not limited to:
- Poor workplace health and safety practices.
- Poor management practices.
- Inadequate participation in important decision making, leading to feeling less valuable.
- Poor working hours and/ conditions.
- Unclear objectives and tasks, etc.
These are not mental health disorders on their own, but they can trigger such in the employees. There should be a company-wide sensitization on the various risk factors that could bring about mental health issues, and what to do against them too.
That way, not only are the employees doing all that they can to better their mental health. They also have an enabling environment that makes sure all of their efforts are not thwarted.
Identifying Mental Health Problems
“Just get over it”
“Drown yourself in work. You’ll soon forget it”
“You can power through it”
Most times when professionals are told this, usually by their colleagues or superiors, something is already wrong somewhere.
These issues should be treated upfront and not left for another time at all. Unfortunately, the above has become the norm so much that most professionals don’t know when they are drowning in mental health problems anymore.
More often than not, you don’t need external help to tell you that everything is not as it should be. You might need to seek out a relevant professional to confirm your suspicions, but you will usually know that something is off when:
- Your feelings don’t allow you to move on with life and business as usual
- Your actions and emotions are starting to affect those around you – from your family to the people that you work with
- You’re consistently in a poor mood for weeks on end
- You are starting to have thoughts of suicide
- You don’t value yourself as much as you used to
- Getting more tired at work
- Making mistakes that are too simple to normally even occur
- You start isolating yourself from colleagues, to the extent of intentionally avoiding socializing
- You procrastinate more, or simply become chaotically fast.
It could be any of the above. It could be a combination. And it could be something else, but close. No matter which it is, never take any of the pieces of advice that we opened this section with.
Improving Your Mental Health at Work
You cannot be the best at what you do if you are not at a hundred percent all around. This includes your mental health also.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do anything over the counter to get better at your mental health every day. Here are some pointers to get you started.
Lose the Stigma
The reason why many people do not acknowledge their mental health or mental health issues boils down to the stigma around this.
Not all mental health disorders are serious. Even if they are, there is no shame in seeking help and wanting to be better. When you give in to the stigma, though, you end up not seeking out the help that you need. That is not the way to get better – but a fast track to getting worse.
Talk about it
If you have an in-house counselor at work, go to them to talk about your feelings. They are bound by the professional code of conduct to keep such conversations confidential. The in-house counselor is also in the best place to lobby better working conditions for you so that you can get over what’s plaguing you.
In the case there is no such personnel, seek out an external professional and secure their services.
Physical activity can help alleviate depression and anxiety.
Not alone, but in combination with other forms of treatment that you will get from a licensed practitioner.
Staying active does not entail going to the gym. Simply taking a run in the morning, jog in the evenings, walking the dog to the park, etc., counts as physical activity.
Alcohol might offer a reprieve, but it will only leave you feeling worse when the effect wears off. That is often the gateway to consuming larger amounts of the substance, leading to abuse.
At the end of the day, the problem remains. Unfortunately, there is now a new problem – alcoholism – to deal with, and it’s never pretty.
Take a break
Working for too long on end can harm your mental health, even if you love your job.
Sometimes, it makes sense to take time for yourself and step back from your office environment. A short break of this kind is often the right refresher to get you in the right mood again, rearing to go.
Speak out at work
If there is a job situation nagging at you, it is time to take it to the relevant quarters.
Your KPIs and objectives might be abstract. It could be that you are not getting enough communication from your superiors. Approach the relevant quarters to make your complaints known.
If nothing is being done about it, that might not be the right job for you anyway.
It is better to keep your mental health intact and search for a new job, than trade your sanity for a poor working environment.