We all experience stress at some point in our lives. The stressors may be work-related, family issues, illness, financial worries, and in the past two years, growing anxiety around the coronavirus pandemic. These stresses look different for everyone and are experienced at different levels. Some can deal and work through these issues, but for others, they are a challenge. At their peak, these can affect the productivity of a workforce and for others, this can be a precursor for mental health issues and distresses.
Mental health conversations are often shrouded in shame, stigma, secrecy, and a lot of misinformation. Despite all the efforts made to educate society on the realities and challenges of mental health, it remains a taboo. In the workplace, it’s an even bigger challenge because of the scepticism towards those who have mental health issues.
What are mental health disorders?
There are many types of mental health disorders and each manifests differently. Some of these include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and autism. There are more than 10 types of mental disorders and can affect daily living and others can be long-lasting. These conditions affect your thinking, behaviour, mood, and feelings.
Who is at risk for mental disorders?
Mental illnesses do not discriminate, and anyone can develop a mental health disorder. However, there are certain conditions that can increase one’s predisposition to developing a mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in America estimates that 21% of all U.S adults suffer some form of a mental illness, females at a higher risk than males. These conditions were most prevalent in young adults compared to the 26-49 year and older age groups. Those at higher risk to develop a mental illness are identified by:
- Discrimination and social/racial injustices
- Alcohol and drug user
- Stressful life events including negative life experiences and traumas
- Financial problems
Myth vs Fact
What is fact? What is the impact of mental health on the workforce? As more research and investment is made into mental health, we’ll outline and bust five mental health myths in order to create a more informed, open, inclusive and empathic work environment for all.
- Myth: Individuals with mental health challenges cannot hold down a job or do it effectively.
Fact: Mental health symptoms manifest different depending on the individual and the exact nature of the condition. While it’s true it can affect one’s ability to work, it could also not have any effect or negative impact at all. If they are high-functioning individuals, they can function in their day-to-day lives without a drop in their productivity or work attendance despite their internal struggles.
- Myth: Talking about my mental health issues at work will affect my growth at work.
Fact: Individuals with mental health conditions can work. When the condition is managed and its treatment plan is followed, they can work as well as any other employee.
- Myth: Mental health cannot be improved in the workplace.
Fact: Employee wellness plays a big role in the health and productivity of employees. By creating a caring company culture and offering a safe, support system to employees can result in positive outcomes. Organisations can hold information sessions, direct employees to treatment centres and not ostracise struggling employees.
- Myth: Struggling with mental health issues means you are weak.
Fact: According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is the most common mental disorder globally, affecting more 260 million people. This is not a sign of weakness, nor is it an indicator of a lack of willpower. Anyone can develop a mental health condition because factors like genetics, chemical imbalances and social stressors can contribute to its development.
- Myth: Individuals with mental health conditions are violent and can be dangerous.
Fact: Despite the portrayal in the media of those struggling with mental health as being violent, this is rarely true. This is misinformation which perpetuates the stigmas around mental health.
Responses to mental health
The American Psychiatric Association Foundation developed a “Notice. Talk. Act.” approach for the workplace that can help staff understand and learn about mental health issues.
- Notice: If HR or any colleague notices a behavioural or performance changes in a co-worker which can be indicative of burnout and depression. They can approach them privately to find out if something is wrong.
- Talk. Speak privately with the struggling employee and show your care and concern for their challenge. Talk to them without judgement but with care, an open mind and a desire to know and understand things from their point of view. When people feel heard in a safe space, they are encouraged to be more open to hear advice and receive help.
- Act. Make available employee assistance programs for staff and encourage those struggling to get help and direct them where they can get help and improve their mental health.
Organisations can implement employee wellness initiatives that cater both the physical and mental health wellbeing of their employees. Alison offers a range of free courses teaching on the different types of mental disorders that they can encourage their staff to sign up for. These will inform their staff on how to support individuals with mental illness and equip them on how to manage stress and anxiety in the workplace.
If you’re unsure about how you’re really doing, take our Mental Health & Wellbeing Assessment, developed by world leading psychometric professionals, to assess and begin your journey to overall wellness.
Inroads are being made when it comes to the education and treatment of individuals living with mental health disorders. Because it’s so far-reaching in its effects and areas of impact, mental health cannot be treated in isolation. By busting these myths and the facts laid bare, workplaces can develop an integrated and holistic support system to its employees.