Increasing Our Awareness of Mental Health

People with mental health problems are no different to the rest of us.

In our life time it is estimated that one in four of us will develop a mental health problem which may impact on our performance at work. Caring organisations support employees to cope and recover as quickly as possible.

The most common mental health problems are depression and anxiety. It is estimated that at any one time, depression alone affects one in 10 of us.

Good mental health is a positive sense of wellbeing and self-esteem. It includes optimism, and the ability to initiate, develop and sustain mutually satisfying personal relationships. It also includes the ability to cope with adversity, often known as resilience.

A happy and harmonious workplace makes life less stressful

There is strong scientific evidence that, for most of us, being at work is good for our physical and mental health and general wellbeing. It is therefore in the interests of the organisation, its managers and employees, that any individual’s mental health problems are recognised as early as possible. It is also important that the employee is supported and guided to utilise the resources available that can help him or her cope with any problems and recover as quickly as possible.

Taking a positive and proactive approach can better prepare individuals to handle mental health problems and is more likely to result in positive outcomes. When someone does start to develop a mental health problem, they may not recognise it or seek help at a sufficiently early stage. Greater awareness of mental health problems by managers and employees benefits all parties concerned. Last year we launched a Mental Health awareness programme for managers in Hong Kong.

Not all stress is work related but, whatever the cause, an excessively stressed individual will probably perform less well at work. Emotional and behavioural changes may also become obvious to the individual’s managers and workmates.

The key difference between the expected effects of regular pressure and stress and a mental health problem is the severity and duration of the symptoms and the degree of impact they have on us day-to-day. Prolonged or excessive stress can be a risk factor for developing a mental health condition. To put it another way, there is a continuum of normality; if we become subject to pressure beyond our tolerance threshold, this can give rise to mental health issues.

Common symptoms are:

1. Changes in behaviour or mood or how he or she interacts with colleagues

2. Changes in work performance, motivation levels and ability to focus on work

3. Struggling to make decisions, get organised and find solutions to problems

4. Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and losing interest in activities and tasks which he or she previously enjoyed

5. Changes in eating habits and / or increased consumption of alcohol or tobacco.

If one of your staff demonstrates any signs of mental health issues you can help by giving them an opportunity to talk confidentially about any problem they are facing.

You should also remind them that we have a confidential employee assistance programme in place. More serious cases may obviously require specialised medical support, and should be discussed with your HR account manager.