May is Mental Health Awareness Month – Let’s Talk About It At Work

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – on this occasion, it only seems right to shed light on mental health in the workplace. Now here’s the deal: work messes with our mental health, but mental health messes with our work. This sentence already illustrates the issue’s complexity. The problem is, the workplace is the last place we expect to discuss or hear about it. Unfortunately, despite the over-used term “Work-life balance”, we are still far from achieving it. Talking about Mental Health is extremely important – be it in the workplace or in life in general. Here’s all you need to know.

1. What are the typical causes?

Before delving into the causes of bad mental health, let me define what a mental health illness is.
A mental health illness is often referred to as an “invisible illness”. The only way to know whether someone has been diagnosed with a mental illness is if they tell you. In other words, the majority of people are unaware of how many mentally ill individuals they know.

Mental disorders range from Anxiety, Depression, Eating and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders to more severe disorders such as Schizophrenia. An estimated 1 in 6 people experienced a common mental health problem the past week.

In some cases, the causes of poor mental health tend to be a combination of work problems and difficulties people are experiencing outside work. Others have mental health complications caused outside the working environment. To put it simply, mental health issues have complex causes.

Specifically, at work, the causes tend to be:

people you’re collaborating with
Work relationships may be adding to your stress more than you think.

the environment you are working in

If you’re working in a stressful environment where there is too much pressure

stigma and discrimination
As you can imagine, those affected fear discrimination. The stigma of mental illness is unfortunately still too important. This can result into behaviors such as aggression, exclusion, devaluation and even bullying.

2. What are the consequences?

When ignored, employees’ poor mental health can cause:

-reduced productivity
-an increase of employee retention

By addressing mental health awareness in the workplace and investing in mental health care for workers, employers can increase productivity and employee retention. Although, one important thing to bear in mind is that symptoms of mental health disorders vary. They may be different at work than in other situations.

3. Mental Health Awareness at work

As mentioned previously, with mental health illnesses come the fear of embarrassment. Those affected are generally too afraid to speak up especially in the workplace scene. They fear to lose their jobs, damaging relationships or general judgement. The stigma of mental illness keeps them silent.

Now, it’s important to underline that “It is illegal for an employer to discrimi­nate against you because you have a mental health condition,” says Arielle B. Kristan, an attorney with employment law firm Hirsch Roberts Weinstein. “Your company can’t fire you, deny you a promotion, or force you to take a leave because of it.”

The 1st solution would be to speak to the HR department (if you have one). Don’t be afraid to ask if you need help in navigating your search.
Most companies larger than 250 people have an employee assistance program (EAP), which offers free counselling sessions. Solutions might also include a temporary reduction in hours.

Otherwise, there are daily exercises that the affected individuals can do for help. For example, making note of when someone does something that triggers the disorder – it helps for their own peace of mind. Or even practising mindfulness during breaks at work.

To conclude, mental health awareness is crucial not only for the workplace but for the sake of making your employees’ general lives happier and healthier. No one can succeed with a mind full of unsaid anxiety or depression. Aren’t you supposed to be loving your job anyway?
Here’s to breaking the stigma of mental illness.


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