Re-evaluating Mental Health in the Workplace

02 May 2021 / By Social Media

The workplace and working in an organisation/institution can be a source of distress and conflict for individuals, severely impacting their mental health and emotional well- being. We’re living in a free-market capitalist economic system where economic and political inequalities between people are aggravated. As a by-product of this economic framework, it is the privileged who get benefitted, with the marginalised facing oppression and discrimination in society, even in workplaces.

Data from around the world shows that mental health problems cause a number of employees dropping out of work. A significant number of employees around the globe live with mental illness which affects their work life. In India alone, 45% of employees working for an employer complained of Anxiety or Depression, according to Then7th Fold’s Employee Wellbeing Survey, 2020.

In workplaces, which are supposed to be places of collective growth, a safe space to self- actualise, and maximise one’s potential, there are a lot of stressors present which can adversely impact the mental well-being of employees. Corporate work culture obliges their employees to put in and devote ten to twelve hours a day to their work, which can cause employees to burnout and nervous breakdown very easily. In a country like India, a majority of the workforce is employed in the informal and unorganised sector where organisations and enterprises do not properly implement labour laws and fail to provide their employees with basic facilities like sanitation, maternity leaves, and other benefits.

The presence of glass ceiling, sexual harassment, and discrimination at workplaces, makes it even more toxic and challenging for women and other caste, religious, class, or gender minorities to progress but also feel secure. All these factors contribute towards adversely impacting the mental health and overall well- being of employees. Individuals struggle with feelings of worthlessness, insecurity, overburden, loneliness, which if left unacknowledged can later translate into mental health difficulties like depression, anxiety, OCD, and substance abuse. For example, women generally are impacted by ‘imposter syndrome’ which refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.

In these times, it becomes more than important to be cognizant, empathetic, and understanding towards the mental health of employees. Especially with the pandemic, where people might already be going through mental health difficulties, it is crucial for organisations to looks out for their employees and actively take steps to improve their mental well- being.

There is a lack of research based in developing countries, as existing studies have predominantly focused on the complex inter-relationship between mental health and work productivity in developed countries. Yet according to the WHO, about 75% of the world's labour force is based in developing countries (Chopra, 2009). Hence, it is crucial to redefine mental health in the workplace context in countries like India.

There is need to enhance the economic and social integration of people with mental health difficulties in workplaces. Removing taboo and stigma around mental health difficulties, requires us to be sensitive and cautious about our words and the terms associated with mental health that we use. As our choice of words often has a powerful impact on how we perceive mental health and the ones living with mental health conditions. It needs to be ensured that we do not throw around terms associated with mental health issues casually for them to be misinterpreted and thus further strengthen the stigmas associated with the same. Using terms like panic attacks, OCD, psychotic, etc. which are out of context or are being used to shame others should be avoided.

Job stress intervention efforts have grown increasingly over the past two decades, paralleling the rising recognition and acceptance of the severe negative impact of job stress on individuals and organisations (Montagne, Keegel, & Vallance, 2007). YWP; as a mental health organisation has also taken up an initiative to promote mental well- being and is coming up with workplace mental health workshop cum training sessions.

References

Chopra, P. Mental health and the workplace: issues for developing countries. Int J Ment Health Syst 3, 4 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1186/1752-4458-3-4

LaMontagne, A. D., Keegel, T., & Vallance, D. (2007). Protecting and promoting mental health in the workplace: developing a systems approach to job stress. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 18(3), 221–228. doi:10.1071/he07221

Patricia Pariona‐Cabrera, Jillian Cavanagh, Timothy Bartram, Workplace violence against nurses in health care and the role of human resource management: A systematic review of the literature, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 10.1111/jan.14352, 76, 7, (1581-1593), (2020).

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