Mental Health in the Workplace

By Kailee Witt, MA – Associate Director, Enrollment Management Systems & Communications at FSW
Jessica Clark, APR – Public Relations and Marketing Associate at FSW

Mental Health in the WorkplaceWhether brought on by workplace stressors, a busy or changing home life, or genetics, mental health issues can impact anyone at any stage of life. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), “1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year.” Given this statistic, it is almost guaranteed that mental illness is impacting you or someone you know in your workplace.

The Stigma of Mental Health
Organizations such as NAMI are not just a resource for those suffering from or with loved ones suffering from mental health issues. Another main goal of these organizations is to educate the general public in order to combat the stigma and stereotypes surrounding people with mental health issues. In fact, NAMI’s website includes a three step pledge to be “stigma free:”

1.    Educate Yourself and Others – “Mental health issues are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing.”

2.    See the Person and Not the Illness – “Getting to know a person and treating them with kindness and empathy means far more than just knowing what they are going through.”

3.    Take Action on Mental Health Issues – Interested in learning more about the pledge or discovering more mental health statistics? Check out NAMI’s website at www.nami.org.

Managing Stress in the Workplace
Even when you love your job, you will occasionally experience work-related stress.  It can be due to deadlines, new roles, or challenging opportunities.  This is normal, but if the stress is constant and chronic, then steps should be taken to manage the stress to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling life.

According to the American Psychological Association, there are steps you can take to help manage your work-related stress:
• Track Your Stressors – Keep a journal for a week or two to help identify the exact stressors.
• Develop Healthy Responses – Try to create healthy ways to handle stress, such as exercise or hobbies.
• Establish Boundaries – Create work-life boundaries so that you are not thinking of work 24/7, and not connecting to the office when you are off.
• Take Time to Recharge – Take those vacation days to recharge and replenish your energy and motivation.
• Learn How to Relax – Look for techniques that help you relax and unwind – meditation, deep breathing, walking, time for yourself.
• Talk to Your Supervisor – Healthy employees are typically more productive, so your supervisor wants you to have a healthy well-being.  Your boss can help you create an effective plan to manage stressors at work while being more productive.
• Get Some Support – Reach out to friends and family for support.  Some employers even offer an employee assistance program (EAP) that could offer some guidance.

Balancing Work and Personal Life
Work/life balance is a struggle for so many people.  With the current technology it is easy to be accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Employees need to make an extra effort to ‘turn off’ work mode and focus on family and personal life.

According to Mental Health America (MHA), many employees are in a “…rush to ‘get it all done’ at the office and at home…” which means “…as our stress levels spike, our productivity plummets.”  Being stressed creates so many problems outside of losing productivity, such as being depressed, irritable or harming our personal relationships.   The tips earlier in this article focus on managing stress at work, but what about stress at home?  MHA proposes that these tips will help manage the stress at home while also encouraging a healthy work/life balance:
• Unplug – Technology makes it easy to work from anywhere, but make sure to turn off the work mode and enjoy your personal time.
• Divide and Conquer – Make sure responsibilities are shared equally at home.
• Don’t Over Commit – Learn to say ‘no’ sometimes, maybe schedule time just for yourself to do whatever you choose.
• Get Support – Communicate with family and friends to have a strong support network at home.
• Treat Your Body Right – Eat healthy and exercise to keep your body in good physical shape.
• Get Help if You Need it – If you are overwhelmed with work and personal life and need extra help, seek that support.  “It is not a sign of weakness – taking care of yourself is a sign of strength.”

Where to Go for Help
There are many resources for individuals who feel they or someone they know may be experiencing mental health issues. The important thing is to seek help and support to ensure you are taking care of your mental health. Some resources may include:
• EAP Programs – many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs that may cover short term counseling or other services.
• Primary Care Doctor or Health Insurance – meet with your primary care doctor to determine the need for referrals to mental health specialists.
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 911 – if you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, it is important to get help right away. Designated professionals at these hotlines can help.

Resources:
http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/work-stress.aspx
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/work-life-balance
http://www.nami.org

www.FSW.edu

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