What is mental health?

According to WHO, Mental health can be defined as a state of well-being in which :

  •   the individual realises his or her own abilities, 
  •  can cope with the normal stresses of life, 
  • can work productively and fruitfully, 
  •  can make a contribution to his or her own community. 

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Perceived well-being strengthens resilience and self-esteem. These are the ingredients for successful involvement in the community, in society, in professional life and in relationships.

Mental illness can range from feeling 'a bit down' to common disorders such as anxiety and depression to more severe and far less common conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Mental health problems, as compared to mental illness, are common and are often experienced during periods of high stress or following upsetting events.

Most people's mental health will not just be continuously good. Usually, it will rise and fall depending on pressures and/or experiences in their life. A person may, therefore, feel in good mental health generally but also experience stress or anxiety from time to time.

Examples of Mental Health problems are: 

  • Feeling low and irritable 
  • Feeling ‘stressed’ 
  • Adjustment Disorder 
  • Sleep problems 
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Substance use disorder 
  • Bipolar Affective disorder 
  • Psychotic disorder 

Why is understanding and addressing mental health important?

Many of the studies have concluded that the indirect costs of mental health disorders — particularly lost productivity —exceed companies' spending on direct costs, such as health insurance contributions and pharmacy expenses.

A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

Employees who feel good about themselves often work productively, interact well with colleagues and make a valuable contribution to the workplace.

Improving well being will thus result in:  

  • improved workplace performance:
  • increased profitability,
  • increased productivity  
  • improved quality of outputs or services. 

How common are mental health-related problems in the workplace?

The WHO suggests that nearly half of people will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lifetime.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Annual Absence Management Survey Report 2016 showed that stress and mental ill-health are causes for concern. Although these disorders may cause absenteeism, the biggest impact is in lost productivity. 

While minor illnesses are still the most common cause of short-term illness, the number of people absent due to stress and mental health issues remain a major issue for employers in both the short and long term.

Why are mental health problems still largely unrecognised?

Mental health problems affect many employees —a fact that is usually overlooked because these disorders tend to be hidden at work. 

The primary reason being the stigma attached to having a psychiatric label is such that employees may be reluctant to seek treatment. Fear of losing the job is the most common reason for the employees to be reluctant to disclose their mental health problems.

Another reason which could result is mental health problems being unrecognised and thus untreated is lack of awareness.Sometimes even when it is recognised the employers are unsure how they can help.

As a result, unfortunately, mental health disorders often go unrecognised and untreated — not only damaging an individual's health and career but also reducing productivity at work.

How to spot mental health problems?

Symptoms of mental health disorders may be different at work than in other situations.

These are the subtle signs that may indicate that an employee may be struggling with his/her mental health: 

  •  Seems irritable
  •  More sensitive to criticism   
  • an uncharacteristic loss of confidence
  •  seem to lose their sense of humour
  •  may make more mistakes than usual
  •   have problems making decisions
  •   not be able to concentrate   

 How to manage mental health problems in the workplace?

 Promoting positive mental health in the workplace:

  • Encourage the staff to adopt healthy lifestyle measures like regular exercise, yoga/mediation and healthy diet.
  • Develop a friendly work environment where the staff are able to communicate with each other.
  • Encourage people to talk about mental health and encourage the staff to develop a non-judgemental and supportive attitude.
  • Commit to improving mental health at work by planning a range of activities and key messages to educate staff and managers and remove any stigma associated with mental ill health.
  • Provide a respectful and encouraging work environment for all employees 

Dealing with stress in the workplace:

Take steps to reduce and modify potential sources of stress in the working environment

  • Reorganise poor working processes
  • Provide employees control over own work and empowerment
  • Include employees in decision making and problem-solving processes
  • Balance efforts and rewards
  • Improve communication and feedback
  • Set clear roles and expectations
  • Encourage and strengthen social support  

Managing staff experiencing mental ill health:

  • Following strategies can help staff suffering from mental health problems:
  • Develop clear policies regarding mental health and ensure that all the employees are aware of It
  • Put support process in place for people suffering from mental health problems.
  • Be positive, professional and supportive at all times.  
  •  Don’t worry if you don’t quite know what to say. Just being supportive and listening will make a difference.
  • Encourage the staff suffering from mental ill health to seek professional help.
  • Respect the wish of the person with mental ill health if they want to keep their mental health problems confidential
  •  Set realistic targets and be clear about priorities, have regular one-to-one sessions and catch-ups to check on how work is going. 

Don’t:

  •   Pressure the person to snap out of it, get their act together or cheer up. 
  •  Stay away from them or give them too much space.
  • Tell them they just need to stay busy or get out more.  
  • Assume the problem will go away on its own.