Too often, we create a façade and put on a brave face as we take on the world daily. Many suffer in silence as they cannot afford to stop and seek assistance or apply basic self-care. Mental health issues are deep-rooted in today’s world.
Mental health includes our emotional, physical and social well-being. It is an essential component of our overall health. It affects how we feel, think and act. Most times, mental health issues are triggered by a stressful situation in our personal and/or professional life. My experience as an HR Practitioner, with a portfolio mainly consisting of employee relations functions, coupled with the close working-relationships with most employees, has allowed opportunity to recognise those who may be in a stressful situation and may require assistance from a professional counsellor or an expert in this field. While there may be persons who willingly reach out for help, there are others who are hesitant due to a perceived or real stigma associated with asking for help or accepting it.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Depression is one of the leading causes of disability. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. People with severe mental health conditions die prematurely – as much as two decades early – due to preventable physical conditions.”
Some of the key signs to identifying mental health illness in the workplace include low levels of engagement, substance abuse, high absenteeism, changes in eating behaviours, violence and or aggression, irrational paranoia or anxiety, withdrawal from social situations and change in work pattern.
As colleagues, we can assist by encouraging them to talk, listening effectively, reassuring that information will be kept confidential, avoiding making assumptions, refering them to HR for arranging EAP services, or seeking external support, or simply being a friend.
Employers can also contribute positively to employees’ mental health by creating an environment that dispels or reduces the negative stigma about mental health issues. Encourage them to speak openly about mental health and create awareness sessions, look out for one another as we continue to be our brothers and sisters’ keepers. Show empathy and compassion if an employee approaches a stressful issue. Emphasise that discussions woll be kept private and confidential unless information is received about intention to self-harm or cause harm to others. Respect when employees are on leave from work and allow them the time to recharge. Introduce a flexible work-arrangement to foster a healthy culture of work-life balance. Host regular mental-wellness sessions from external providers and hopefully by doing this, it will create a healthy workspace for all and break the barriers
I recall during the initial stages of the pandemic; my employer was committed to having virtual mental-wellness sessions done for all employees. It was almost second nature for the company to take this course of action, as health and safety has always been a number one priority. The company was dedicated to keeping staff engaged and did whatever they saw fit at the time, from colleagues volunteering to host virtual sessions based on their various skills from basic gardening, to makeup application, canvas painting and much more. This approach assisted employees to cope better in a time of high uncertainty. It also reformed and strengthened work-relationships, eased anxiety, as some reported, as we navigated the course together. Our organisation has certainly had some positive outcomes
Personal responsibility of our mental health is paramount and as resilient beings, we overcome challenges daily. In the midst of all the chaos, we must ensure that a balance is sought and maintained. Prioritise self-care and find ways to alleviate work-related stress. Yoga, exercise, a healthy diet, consistent sleep patterns, socialising with friends and family and learning to relax are all healthy ways to manage any stressful situation.
As I continue to practice Human Resources with a genuine passion, my goal remains to help others in their various circumstances. I am fortunate to be part of a work culture where the barriers are low, owing to mental health awareness sessions, and employees are familiar with the process to seek assistance from the relevant persons or department. A culture where high employee-engagement activities are common.
“I think it’s really important to take the stigma away from mental health… My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth.”—Kerry Washington, from HuffPost
The Human Resource Management Association of T&T (HRMATT) is the leading voice of the Human Resource Profession locally. HRMATT Says is a column meant to address issues and concerns of professionals and the general public focused on Human Capital Development. Today’s article is written by HRMATT member and Human Resource Practitioner, Miranda Singh. Learn more about HRMATT by visiting our website: www.hrmatt.com. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. Contact us at: 687-5523 or via email: email@example.com
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