Mental Wellness for the Workplace

May 13, 2019

 

First and most importantly, IT IS OK TO NOT BE OK. If you, or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety or any other form of mental illness, help is available and we are here to support you. 

 

Contact the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 800.273.TALK (8255)

Contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741

Recent studies have found that over 450 million people globally suffer from depression, anxiety or some other form of metal illness. The reality- mental illnesses are much more common today. On average, 1 in 4 adults struggle with some sort of mental illness according to the World Health Organization. Mental illnesses are more common than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, and depression is the most common mental health problem.

 

Today, our goal is to increase awareness of mental health in the workplace, remove stigma’s that may be associated with mental illnesses and provide information and tools to help anyone who may be struggling and how to support them.

 

To start, we want to define what mental illness is according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2013. Mental Illness is a medical condition that may significantly impair or disrupt a person’s thinking, feelings, mood, ability to relate to others, daily functioning, and/or routine living tasks. Mental illnesses can affect a person of any age, any culture, any status, any race, any gender, and any religion.

 

It's important to understand that anyone can be affected by a mental illness, regardless of who they are or where they come from. 

 

Work-related factors

Research states that anyone can and will experience some sort of emotional distress in the workplace at some point in their career, which may significantly increase ones risk in developing a mental illness or significantly impact an underlying issue that may already be present. And if not well managed, workplace-related mental health issues can lead to decreased productivity, performance, and overall team morale.

 

There are many factors that can contribute to mental health problems within a workspace, both internal and external. These factors may include:

  • inadequate health and safety policies;

  • poor communication and management practices;

  • limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work;

  • low levels of support for employees;

  • inflexible working hours; and

  • unclear tasks or organizational objectives.

  • Unsuitable  tasks for the person’s competencies

  • Extreme job demands

  • Low job control

  • Financial problems

  • Lack of control or feeling trapped in a job role

  •  Workplace bullying

  • Underlying emotional problems or mental illness

Creating a healthy workplace

Understanding mental wellness and being more aware of your working environment is the first step to creating a healthy workplace. As an employer, you should know the impact of your company. With a clear picture of the serious business effects of poorly treated mental health effects, you are more likely to be in a position to build support for change using the language that matters at your company.

 

Break the silence. Strive to create a workplace culture that can openly talk about the importance of mental wellness and dissolve any negative stigma’s that may be associated with mental illnesses. It is a known fact that stigmas drive silence, and that silence is what prevents those in need from getting help. Openly communicating about mental wellness helps individuals who may be struggling, feel supported. When employers take on the subject of mental illness, they send a powerful message to employees that it’s okay to get help.

 

Offer mental wellness programs and access to help within the workplace. Having resources like brochures and a list of services readily available to your employees is extremely important.  You may  want to tailor messages to employees and promote the specific ways in which they can access services and treatment through your company’s health and wellness offerings if applicable.

 

How to support a coworker with a mental disorder at work

Work-related stresses surround us all. But if you notice something out of the ordinary with a coworker, it's important to stay observant. There are a handful of signs that may be present in someone who may be struggling. These signs may include:

  • Withdrawal or passivity

  • Decreased performance

  • Uncharacteristic procrastination or expressions of frustration

  • Persistently sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

  • Obvious signs of sleep problems

  • Frequent restlessness or irritability

  • Sudden difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions

  • Fatigue

  • Expressions of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness

  • Talk of suicide or death

 

Observe

If you notice that a coworker is acting unlike themselves or seems to be struggling, simply ask if they are okay or if there is something you can do to help them.

 

Actively Listen

One of the most helpful things you can do for someone who may be struggling with a mental health issue is to listen without judgement. If it’s relevant, offer your own experience without making it all about you.Try and help them find a solution to their worries if appropriate.

 

Support

Suggest speaking with their superior, and offer support if necessary. And don’t just stop there. Continue to communicate and encourage them. Help them set healthy objectives and check in with them regularly. 

 

If the conversation becomes life threatening or if you feel that your coworker is in danger, report to your supervisor and request help.

 

How to manage stress within a workplace

As mentioned above, we all experience highs and lows in our careers. It's OK if you are feeling stressed out or depressed at work.We are here to help. These simple tricks can help dissolve day-to-day stresses and can be practiced daily without interrupting your working responsibilities: 

  • Take multiple breaks- Taking multiple breaks throughout the day is a great way to improve focus and mental clarity. If you are struggling to focus, take a break and come back to your project with fresh eyes.

  • Go outside- Nature is known to improve moods and spark happiness. Get outside and enjoy some fresh air.

  • Communicate. Talk to someone. Tell your superior about your concerns and how you are feeling. If you are struggling with a task or a deadline, ask for help. 

  • Know that it is OK to not be OK.  

  • Avoid toxic coworkers. If you work with negative coworkers, simply avoid them and focus on building healthy relationships with positive people. If your coworkers are unavoidable (maybe because they sit near you) try tuning them out by listening to music or even the Noisili app. Noisili helps block out external noise by allowing you to create the perfect sound mask from their library of sounds.

There are many ways to avoid toxicity within the workplace.You can read more about how to avoid toxicity in the workplace here. 

  • Get plenty of rest- Getting plenty of rest is key. Aim for 7- 10 hours of rest per night.

  • Eat a balanced diet. Avoid junk food and unnatural sugars.

  • Drink plenty of water. Drinking water helps flush out toxins that may be triggering stress-related symptoms like lethargy and mental fatigue.

  • Exercise- Taking 30 minutes a day, at least 3 days a week can improve your physical and mental health dramatically. 

  • Breath- Practice meditative breathing to help calm nerves and alleviate anxiety. Taking in deep breaths in through your nose and exhaling out through your mouth will help bring your anxiety down during highly stressful times. If you need help practicing meditative breathing, check out the Headspace app. They have tons of different meditations that help with things like sleeping better, focusing, and anxiety. Some are only 5 minute sessions to help de-stress quickly. 

  • Stretch- Sitting and staring at your screen for too long will only add to your stress levels — so getting up, moving and stretching it out is so important for your mental and physical health. Check out the Desk Job app for different ways to stretch at your desk.

  • Write it down. Journaling your thoughts and tracking how you feel can help you communicate how you are feeling, and often find the underlying cause when it often isn't clear why you feel the way you do. If you prefer not to journal, try organizing your thoughts with the Aloe Bud app. The Aloe Bud app helps you organize those thoughts with small and simple reflection prompts to help you micro-journal how you’re feeling each day.

  • Seek help. If you are feeling overwhelmed or have thoughts of suicide, know that you are not alone and there is help that can help you through this. Whether its talking to a family member, a friend, or even a specialist- help is available. Below is a list of FREE and CONFIDENTIAL helplines that are available to you.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental disorders.

 

The National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 800.273.TALK (8255) connects you with a crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. Your call will be answered by a trained crisis worker who will listen empathetically and without judgment. The crisis worker will work to ensure that you feel safe and help identify options and information about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free.

 

The Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 for those individuals who prefer not to call. Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.

 

Other Support Lines

National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 800-799-SAFE (7233)

 

National Sexual Assault Hotline – Call 800-656-HOPE (4673)

 

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