Mental Health in the Workplace

January 10, 2017

 

The wide range of illnesses that can be labelled a mental condition make it almost impossible to determine if a worker’s mental health needs support enough for an employer to become involved. The overriding concern for an organisation would be performance; does the condition affect an employee’s ability to do the job? Address mental health in the workplace whatever the employer needs are, as indicated by Prime Minister Theresa May. In her speech on mental health recently it was revealed that fifty percent of children develop a mental illness at the age of 14 and seventy-five percent of 18-year-olds have mental health challenges. One in four adults has a mental disorder. One could hardly blame you when you look at these statistics, that the dangerously increased level of mental illness is due to increases in the freedoms held dear by modern society. These freedoms are the reward we have for progress, and in turn, the illness is the price we pay for the same freedom.

 

Some Possible Causes:

  • Stress which itself can become an illness if allowed to go unchecked.

  • Drug abuse, including the very drugs, prescribed for mental illness.

  • Social Media addiction including professional gaming – particularly when young children have no boundaries regarding the length of time spent on the games and the type of games played – some are so violent that adults would baulk at engaging in them. Lack of sleep, due to long hours spent playing games, and gratuitous violence can play havoc on the young mind. Other addictions include gambling and many criminal ones like illegal pornography.

  • Inability to process daily interaction stress whether it involves driving, public transport or relationships at home and work. It can pile up and gradually lead to a breakdown.

  • Fear - justified fear as in trauma experienced in the progress of a crime against one and the very real trauma created by poor public service delivery, or irrational phobias – both types need treatment. Young people have a real fear of unemployment after school – this must be addressed by exposure to alternative employment choices as in entrepreneurship. 

  • Insomnia – a dangerous modern plague due to the reversal of the sleep and awake pattern. It is doubtful that human beings were designed to live by night yet many are awake by the fear of the looming work deadline or having to work the night shift to earn a living.

There can be several reasons that a worker develops a mental illness at work, apart from possible existing medical conditions. Whether the employee develops an illness or has a condition, the employer has to do all that can be done to support the person if they are to function to your satisfaction. Ignoring the situation is self-defeating. Should you feel justified in dismissing the worker based on poor performance due to mental illness, it’s good to remember those statistics – you may well employ someone new who has a more severe condition, only one that may be harder to detect; as in a sociopath who could appear entirely healthy!

How to support the mentally ill worker starts with communication in a safe and trust-based environment. To get workers’ co-operation in their health management, they have to feel secure and to this end, you have to be someone that they feel can be trusted. To unrealistically bemoan the loss of an earlier stress-free time, and the operative word here is unrealistic, is pointless - every era had its stresses and mental illness. The SOLUTION is support for the worker by allowing time off for treatment and possibly rewarding improvement. Encourage annual leave with a minimum carryover to the next calendar year. Update employee's emergency contact details regularly to get as much help from family in managing the condition as possible.

 

Tips for employees:

  • Have regular check-ups and stick to the medical regimen.

  • If fortunate enough to have supportive employer co-operate with support to produce your best work.

  • Build a relationship of trust with a work colleague or your line manager.

  • Be honest about all aspects of illness so that company knows how to deal with any negative fallout from possible relapse.

  • Do not under any circumstance abuse employer’s trust and support with the dishonesty of any kind regarding your condition. Time taken off for treatment must be just that.

  • Never pretend you’re coping when you are not.  Your employer could formulate an action plan if you let them know how you feeling. If work becomes too much, stress will worsen your condition.

  • Participate in your progress by working with the company to initiate whatever government programmes are available to companies for supporting mentally ill workers.

A last word to the employer – some mental illness is tough to detect and for the best way to deal with all types of mental illness, it is advisable to consult with medical professionals and also for you to go through some training to help you in this regard. Remember we are all not immune to mental health issues and by working together we can fight it!

 

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