Why Mental Health Matters at Work – What I Learned

The stigma associated with mental illness can be one of the greatest barriers to psychological health and safety in the workplace, especially for employees struggling with stress, depression or anxiety. Mental health is one of leading causes of lost productivity.

The first step in eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness starts with us. By educating ourselves and others it can increase awareness so people feel comfortable seeking help sooner. They will recover faster and maintain productivity which reduces strain on employees and employers.

Mental disorders are like any other medical condition. They are highly treatable and for Fight the stigma associated with mental illnessmany individuals, recovery is possible. Mental health and wellness are essential to overall health.

This message needs to be further emphasized to break those stigma barriers.

As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, we cannot let its mission fade. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness — taking action to help yourself is a sign of strength. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

Who should you contact for help?

Be the one to help someone suffering from mental illness

Why Mental Health Matters at Work–Stress in the Workplace

The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Main Physiological Reactions to Stress

Approximately more than 25% of Americans would describe themselves as “super-stressed.”  Stress-related issues are continuously rising and can adversely affect how people think, act, and react, which can compromise not only our health and productivity, but also our safety.

Often a healthy work-life balance seems impossible with juggling heavy workloads, managing relationships, family responsibilities, and fitting in social activities. The stressors in our daily life can be hard to turn off and keep us in a constant state of stress.

While some stress is normal, if our bodies stay in a constant state of stress for too long, we can develop or worsen health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and decreased immune system. Too much stress can also lead to substance abuse and serious mental health problems, like depression and anxiety disorders.

If we’re experiencing excessive stress in the workplace it can make the difference between success or failure. Common stress related symptoms include anxiety, frustration, poor judgment, memory lapses and difficulty concentrating or making decisions that can translate into burnout, accidents, injuries and other mishaps on the job. Ignoring safety procedures or not using proper safety gear is just one example of how stress may interfere with our behavior and cause workplace safety problems. Stress in the workplace hurts your productivity and takes a serious toll on your mind and body.

Stress is a costly problem in the workplace
Working and juggling the demands of career and personal life will probably be an ongoing challenge. Finding a healthy work-life balance isn’t a one-shot deal and is a continuous process. It’s extremely important to manage our stress level to keep our mental health in check. Periodically take a look at your priorities and, if necessary, make changes to ensure you’re keeping on track.

Are you stressed?  Take a stress test

Even making small changes in your daily life can greatly help manage every day stress and will help you find that healthy balance between home, work, and social activities which are essential for getting a handle on stress and feeling good about life. Learn how to manage stress better and live life well with these tips:

  1. Connect with others
  2. Stay positive
  3. Get physically active
  4. Help others
  5. Get enough sleep
  6. Create joy and satisfaction
  7. Eat well
  8. Take care of your spirit
  9. Deal better with hard times
  10. Get professional help if you need it
  11. Take the stress out of your commute

If your life feels too chaotic to manage and you’re spinning your wheels worrying about it, it’s time to seek help.  Who should you contact for help?Employee Assistance Program

Why Mental Health Matters at Work – Depression in the Workplace

Depression is often a topic that goes unspoken and it’s time to start talking openly about depression so people can feel empowered to seek help if needed.  Many people suffer in silence, afraid of the stigma associated with depression but depression is like any other treatable medical condition. Risk Factors

Everyone goes through a variety of moods throughout the day. You might be happy one minute and angry about something a few hours later. But depression involves a consistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest, and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

Approximately one in ten working-age people will experience depression, that’s millions of people and most don’t even realize they are depressed.  They might think “I’m just in a fog” or “having a bad day.”  If those bad days start accumulating you might be depressed. Other symptoms may include trouble making decisions, lack of interest in activities, slowed thoughts and difficulty concentrating.Depresssion in the workforce

Depression ranks among the top three workplace problems and can take a significant toll on employees and employers.  If an employee isn’t sleeping, feels down and hopeless, has difficulty concentrating and a loss of energy, it can be very difficult for them to perform their job.  The impacts on job performance include decreased productivity, absenteeism, and inability to think clearly and make decisions.  No matter what kind of job, depression can quickly create major problems on the job.

With early recognition job performance at work can improve and symptoms of depression can be alleviated with proper diagnosis and treatment.  Most employees can overcome clinical depression and pick up where they left off, but approximately only one-third of people with diagnosable mental health conditions seek help.

Get the Facts – Recognize the Symptoms

Symptoms & Warning Signs

We all can play a part in helping people get healthy.  People struggling with depression will be less impaired at work if they seek help.  By talking openly about depression, sharing information and solutions we can reduce the stigma associated with mental illness so individuals living with depression feel comfortable reaching out for support.

Often employees fail to seek help until it’s too late.  They are too embarrassed, think they can’t afford it or don’t know where to find resources.  Support and resources are out there – Reach out for help when you need it.

Who should you contact for help? Untreated depression increases health care costs

SmartHealth Challenge Accepted!

Challenge

A personal challenge issued by the Governor!

It all started with this postcard in the mail. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not exactly a health nut. I like value meals. I like refilling my soda before leaving Costco. I like sour cream on my tacos. I also…have yet to explore all walking trails across campus. That being said, I do like anything that clearly states I can earn $125! Sign me up! Governor (as in the WA State Governor’s SmartHealth Challenge), you’re on!

Snacks

None of these snacks are officially endorsed by SmartHealth, but all can be found in my desk.

With visions of a $125 incentive applied towards my health coverage deductible for 2016, I logged into the SmartHealth website for the very first time. Registration was no problem at all. Choosing a username however…that was challenging because you want to pick something that sounds cool…but not dated (something like steve2015 would only work for another 9 months after all). “EstebanIsSteve” can now officially be found on the SmartHealth site.

The actual task at hand, completing the Well-being Assessment, took about fifteen minutes. I was a little curious why I was being asked about my career, quality of life, optimism, and blood sugar level (Does anyone really know their blood sugar level?). Whoop! Completing the assessment just earned me 800 points towards that $125 deductible!

Results

79%! That’s it! Perhaps I should have studied before taking the test.

My momentary excitement however shifted towards another feeling. I may have just earned 800 points, but my assessment revealed an overall wellness score of only 79%. That would eat away at any overachiever, right? Am I really just average? Gulp. As it turns out I excelled in “Life Meaning”, “Knowing Yourself”, and “Capacity for Change”, but received lower marks in “Physical”, “Sleep”, and “Nutrition.” Okay…I guess that actually makes sense. I’ve perhaps known this all along. The difference though, is that I had an official result in front of me…in black and white…from the Governor…stating I am below average in several areas of well-being. Let’s just say that being confronted with the truth hurts a tiny bit. Thank you Governor.

Topics

That 7 hours I just slept? That banana I had for breakfast? Yup. Those count towards actual points.

No seriously, thank you Governor. Everyone needs a truth sandwich every now and then. I know I don’t work out enough. I know there are beautiful trails on campus I should be exploring. I know I should not be supersizing my value meal. The good news is that this site also has lots of support, resources, and “Topics” to improve one’s well-being. Every topic you add to your program adds to your overall goal of reaching that $125 deductible. I’ve already added a few topics (Sleep Well, Healthy Start, and Track Your Activity) and am on track to a better me.

Analytics

I just a few clicks I automagically connected my exercise app of choice to SmartHealth.

On a serious note, this process also made me aware of the fact that I really don’t know basic information…about myself. I felt the click of shame every time I had to choose, “I don’t know”,  as an answer. Blood glucose? Cholesterol? Blood pressure? Weight? I don’t know. Am I supposed to know this information? Now, I’m actually thinking of scheduling a doctor’s visit…you know, those things you normally do only when you feel like you’re dying? It’s like I’m actually thinking about my health in a proactive way instead of responding to a situation as it occurs. There is hope for me yet…and an incentive for $125!

P.S. If anyone out there received a score of over 79% please don’t share with me. I already feel self-conscious enough for one week.