The 3 most common mental health problems in the workplace and how to avoid them.

A mental health problem is a term that can cover a very wide range of issues that individuals may experience at some point in their lives. Of all the health conditions which affect the general population, mental health problems are the most common. In fact, they are so prevalent that in one year, 1 in 4 people can be affected by them.

This article will outline the more common of mental health issues that we might encounter in the workplace, the particular symptoms that can be associated with each, and where appropriate, recommended actions for organisations.

Anxiety

When faced with a threat or in a dangerous situation, people can become anxious. Anxiety is the feeling of worry, fear and unease; essentially, it’s an unpleasant emotional state that many of us experience. Physical symptoms such as shaking, hot and cold sweats, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, sickness and stomach aches, can also accompany the unpleasant emotions anxious individuals experience. We all experience this from time to time and it is a normal response to certain situations. For example, you might be worried about being late for a job interview, delivering a presentation to management or meeting deadlines at work.

Anxiety becomes problematic when the responses that we have become exaggerated and make you feel as if things are worse than they may be. Individuals may begin to feel panic, dread and a sense of impending doom, feel on edge and want to escape the situation that they are in and experience difficulty sleeping and concentrating. Being in an anxious state affects how a person feels, how they perceive the world around them, how they think, feel and act.  In the context of the workplace, anxiety can, therefore, impact an individual’s well-being and performance.

Depression.

According to the World Health Organisation, by 2020, depression will be so prolific that it will become the second-largest contributor to the global burden of disease. Depression is so prevalent that in one year 8 to 12% of the population may experience it, and it tends to recur in most people. More than half of the individuals who experience an episode of depression are likely to have a second. Those that do experience a second, face a 70% risk of a further relapse and those for that have suffered a third depressive episode, face a 90% risk of relapse

The word ‘depressed’ is commonly used to describe how we feel during the general ups and downs of life.  It is a term which describes moods which range from low spirits to severe mood problems that impact and interfere with an individual’s daily life. The symptoms of depression differ widely between individuals and they can be complex. In general, truly depressed people feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in things they normally enjoyed which lasts for more than two weeks. Other symptoms include having low self-esteem, feeling tearful, irritable, anxious, suicidal thoughts, disturbed sleep, lack of energy, unexplained aches and pains and changes in appetite or weight.

There are social symptoms of depression too.  Individuals with depression may avoid contact with colleagues and friends, take part in fewer social activities, neglect their interests and hobbies and have difficulties in their home life and with their family.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. PTSD might not be something you immediately associate with the workplace as most of us aren’t exposed to traumatic events in our working lives. However, people working in organisations such as the Emergency Services, health and social care and the armed forces are likely to be exposed to traumatic events.

Each person’s experience of PTSD is unique to them. They might have experienced a similar type of trauma to a friend or colleague yet be affected differently. Common signs or symptoms of PTSD that you might recognise are:

    • Vivid flashbacks and intrusive thoughts
    • Being in a state of extreme alertness, also known as ‘hypervigilance’
    • Nightmares, or problems sleeping such as insomnia
    • Anger, aggressive behaviour and irritability
    • Finding it hard to concentrate on simple or everyday tasks
    • Self-destructive behaviour or recklessness
    • Finding it difficult to express affection or emotions to others
    • Feeling like you can’t trust anyone
    • Feeling like nowhere is safe
    • Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities
    • Feeling detached from those around you
    • Feeling responsible for what happened, blaming oneself and feeling guilty for surviving the event.

These symptoms can be severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person’s day-to-day and working life. Consequently, those suffering from PTSD can experience some negative impacts on their psychological, social or occupational functioning.

How to avoid mental health problems in the workplace.

Just like physical health, our mental health fluctuates and is influenced by our personal and working lives. To avoid mental health problems in the workplace, organisations can:

  • Conduct a Culture and Well-being Audit. How the organisations’ culture and working environments affect the workforce and take steps to identify and mitigate the risk factors.
  • Empower the workforce with Mental Health Training. Raise awareness and help the workforce to understand what causes of poor mental health, build personal resilience and develop the skills and techniques needed to manage mental health more effectively.

You can learn more about, how to manage mental health in the workplace by reading our short Guide to Mental Health in the Workplace. Alternatively, if you’re concerned about the well-being and mental health of your workforce, feel free to contact a Psychologist at Zeal Solutions for a no-obligation telephone consultation.

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