Mental Health issues at the workplace
Mental Health issues have become quite common these days and its high-time we start addressing these openly. In this post, I have mentioned my thoughts about some of the mental health issues faced at the workplace, its causes and symptoms and what HR could do to help people heal their mental health.
What are some of the mental health issues faced at the workplace today? Who is the target audience?
Anxiety, Stress, Fear of failure are some of the most common mental health issues faced at the workplace today. Why do we get stressed – we have a job, we are earning well so why this stress? Stress is just the outer layer — deep down inside us there are too many thoughts that are attacking us almost on a daily basis. Constant comparison to our peers, friends and even siblings. We are thinking about paying our bills, paying off our debts and then there is the fear of making mistakes and losing our jobs! Our mind is never at rest!
All of this leads to a lot of pressure on the mind which in turn leads to some sort of anxiety. Even our day to day operational tasks start seeming difficult to handle (for instance, too much of worry can freeze us and we may even refuse to travel to work – we may start fearing for our own safety). Why does this happen? Even a basic thought about our future creates a lot of questions in our minds and as I explained earlier this leads to constant worrying and makes us anxious!
Mental Health disorders are everywhere – Anxiety, Worry, Stress can attack you at work, at home or even during your vacation. Even our mothers may have been victims of anxiety and stress. They have to worry about managing their home, future of their children, reactions of their husband, financial security – there are multiple reasons, right? The issue, however, is that there is no one to listen to them – at your workplace you have your colleagues, supervisors and the HR team but is there anyone listening to the housewife or say your mother? NOBODY! Thus, there is no specific target audience for mental health disorders!
What are some of the major causes?
Mental health issues like anxiety, stress, depression could occur due to a combination of lack of support (mainly from family members), lack of guidance or a lack of clarity on what needs to be done in the future.
All of us have forgotten the importance of being in the present. Even as a child, we would be asked about our future; we would be threatened for not completing our homework, not allowed to play during exams and even if we were to play there would be a lot of restrictions on us. Our mind has been trained to think about the uncertain future which may or may not happen.
Talking of the workplace, it could be due to the rude feedback given by an unempathetic supervisor that is playing on the persons mind. The person is hurt and is unable to talk to anyone (fear of being judged or ridiculed). He keeps pushing it and forces himself to focus on his work. Deep down he is getting angry on himself and also the world at large as they are not able to help him. Plus, he is worried about his job and his overall financial security. All these lead to a drop in performance which again adds to his burden! If only he had received the right support either at home or at work – he would have been in a much better place both physically as well as mentally!
What are some of the symptoms or how can you spot such issues?
People will not talk about their mental health issues openly for obvious reasons. So you need to look for some of the following symptoms:
- Increase in absenteeism
- Sudden drop in performance (could be due to some fear or anxiety)
- Change in behavior — a normally happy person would start to look gloomy and snappy
- Look for signs of anger — if you find someone getting irritated or angry at trivial things then it is the beginning of some mental health issue which may lead to something bigger if not tackled at the right time
- Drop in motivation levels (most common but not so serious – as it could also be due to some other factors)
- Physical symptoms – in case of severe anxiety people may feel nauseous or experience a pain in the chest
- Sleep deprivation
- Increased or low appetite
- People may also site reasons of fear of travelling — if they share this with you please do not mock them. This is a pretty serious stage of anxiety – people usually freeze and may have a fear of either losing their life of going crazy. Do not send them to a psychiatrist – they don’t need medication. All they need is your understanding and undivided attention.
How can organizations address mental health issues?
- Create a culture of encouraging people to talk about mental health issues openly with their friends, family, HR or their supervisors
- Have an in-house counselor or tie-up with professional counselors or life coaches
- Having someone to listen to them will make them feel safe
- Grant them a few days of leave if you find their anxiety levels to be pretty high — take their family into confidence and assure them that their job is secure.
We are living in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world, and it is this uncertainty and ambiguity that leads to a lot of stress and anxiety in people. People need to start addressing their mental health issues openly if they wish to thrive in a VUCA world!
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