Mental Illness in the Workplace
We need to create awareness about mental illness in the workplace so that we can fight against the stigma associated with it.
According to a study by the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety disorders have an enormous cost to the global economy. It’s no surprise when workers find themselves spending a big portion of their 24 hours at work than at home.
Our world has an increasing need for competition. People are always being pressured in the workplace. Needless to say, work is not all there is in a person’s life. Some companies treat work as the only thing without caring about the employees’ personal mental health.
Yet, good mental health is directly linked to personal effectiveness, productivity, and performance of individual workers. You can get stressed by the work itself, and you can have personal stress to add on that. It’s a threat to your mental well-being and poses a risk of developing mental illnesses related to anxiety and depression, physical problems or becoming addicted to substances.
Unfortunately, for most workers, going through personal tragic circumstances is not a concern for the employer or supervisor. They expect you to perform the same as you would even under ideal circumstances. The state of your mental health is crucial for job performance. Employers should always take this as a consideration. Taking a mental health day off should be acceptable just as taking a day off for physical health.
Stop stigmatizing people who have a mental illness. Stop stereotyping people who have the required skills for a job because they suffer from a mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder or short term mental struggles.
Why Mental Illness Stigmatized in the Workplace?
One reason for the lack of understanding is the idea that mental illness always means “crazy.” Without realizing that anyone can be affected by the problem. In fact, that boss who constantly yells, insults, demeans and treats at juniors as an inferior race needs to seek mental health assessment and treatment, which if not addressed will lead to dire consequences such as decreased employee motivation or loss of talent in the company.
Some employers assume that mental illness is unimportant since it is not as visible as physical illness. If you get to work with a cold, everyone will know that you are sick because of the visible symptoms. But, mental illness is not always visible.
Taking a sick leave is regarded as a temporary circumstance of inefficiency. Most people who are ignorant of the impact of poor mental health at the workplace take it lightly and consider it to be a weakness on the part of the individual’s character.
Also, it’s hard for some workers to admit to mental illness because of the social stigma attached to it. Employees may fear the reactions of their bosses after admitting that they need to seek mental health treatment. They would rather lie that they have a cold when they are experiencing symptoms of a mental health issue such as a panic attack.
What’s the Benefit of Considering Employee Mental Health?
Staff members become more loyal and effective. Being at your best level of personal effectiveness requires a good state of mind. Organizations with work policies which encourage the best interest of the employee’s mental and physical health, without minimizing the value of the customer are the best to work for —of course, all other factors of the work environment considered.
For your company to survive, you have to treat your employees with respect and care for their mental well-being. Some companies are either ignorant of the crucial role of mental health or they simply do not take it seriously.
Communication skills, computer skills or HIV/AIDS are introductory courses in universities despite the field of study. Every academic pursuit needs to add mental health awareness as one of the must-do courses. Let’s develop people who not only care about their bodies and finance but, also care for their state of mind.
The Role of the Individual to Maintain Mental Health in the Workplace
How can you be effective when your mental powers are not working effectively? It’s bad enough when experiencing symptoms of mental stress. Add working in toxic workplaces to that, and your risk for mental illness increases.
The individual worker has personal problems which they carry around with them. They cannot just leave them at home because it’s natural to think of existing problems. With the ease of communication technology, there’s no way you can simply leave your problems at home.
You can focus on the work that you need to do, but that work does not solve personal problems which beset people in their lives and have a great impact on their psychology.
When you do not deal with your stress it will have a negative impact on your concentration and job performance. The important thing to do is to allocate some time away from work and to deal with personal problems.
However, some employers do not care about that and they will expect you to be fine and do the job well even when you are not feeling well mentally.
Suggestions for promoting mental health in the workplace
Companies can become more supportive of workplace mental health through the following strategies:
- Minimizing work hours to improve effectiveness through focused attention
- Giving employees time away from work when they need to seek mental health care e.g. during a stressful time in their personal lives
- Including dialogue about mental health at the workplace during workshops, seminars, or team building activities
- Supporting the staff’s mental health through mental health policies in the workplace or programs like staff counselling
Organizations should tolerate people long-term if they can not perform. However, put into consideration that employees are human beings and have other things to do apart from work. Working overtime, large workloads and too much pressure at the workplace leads to burnout. Consequently, productivity and effectiveness reduce. Therefore, take measures to ensure that the work environment is not a toxic workplace.
Organizations which care about employee mental health usually include staff counselling services which are readily available to the employees. They also engage employees in relaxation activities to break the monotony of working all the time. They give individual employees paid vacation time without expecting them to always be on for work when called during their off days.
Staying at home because of mental health should become acceptable. People with good psychological health thrive in their jobs. If that job is so toxic and overwhelming and increasing your risk for poor mental health, find alternative actions. There are always alternatives no matter how dire the situation seems.
Let’s educate potential employers and employees about workplace mental health so that they can take it seriously. Mental illness is not necessarily a mark of incompetence to employees who are going through it. With appropriate help, they can get the care they need and be back on their feet working effectively.
Life is for living. Keep living. Don’t give up.