Employee mental health must be made a priority by all businesses

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Poor mental health is one of the biggest issues in the workplace today, causing over 70 million working days to be lost each year. This includes everything from the most commonly experienced symptoms of stress and anxiety, right through to more complex mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. As well as having an enormous impact on individual employees, poor mental health has severe repercussions for employers – including increased staff turnover, sickness absence due to debilitating depression, burnout and exhaustion, decreased motivation and lost productivity. But while companies of all shapes and sizes increasingly understand the importance of good mental health, many simply don’t feel confident handling and communicating these issues in the workplace.

There was a time when mental problems were something of a rarity, but times have changed. Research suggests that nowadays one in six people are susceptible to mental problems at any time in a week.

 

Workplace environment can be very stressful and in our respective workplaces or friend circles, there are people battling mental problems, although them may not show signs of the same overtly. So, what causes workplace related mental problems? 

“There are a lot of things that can cause an employee to feel under stress such as pressure to meet the target set for him/her, performance issues, cultural divide etc. these all can make an employee feel either under extreme stress or isolated, which in turn take a toll on his/her productivity, the process snow-balls and could even led to complete meltdown of an employee”, says a top-level Manager of Qatari company, who wished to remain anonymous. 

Some people are better equipped to handle stress and things may not slip out of hand for them, but all people are not so mentally sturdy. Mental stress can manifest on the surface in many forms such as: 

  • Depression – very low moods; feeling hopeless, worthless, unmotivated or exhausted; loss of appetite; irritability; more prone to physical illness. Depression often goes hand in hand with anxiety. For men feeling low or anxious can lead to anger and using recreational drugs or alcohol as coping strategies.
  • Anxiety – constant and unrealistic worry about any aspect of daily life leading to restlessness; sleeping problems; increased heartbeat; stomach upset; muscle tension; trembling. Severe anxiety can be linked to panic attacks, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • Panic attacks – sudden, unexpected bouts of intense terror leading to difficulty breathing; rapid pounding heartbeat; choking sensations; chest pain, trembling; feeling faint. The memory of a panic attack can provoke fear and trigger another.
  • Phobias – an unreasonable fear of a particular situation or object which can cause major disruption to life because it imposes such restrictions on the way people live, for example agoraphobia can cause such paralysing fear that a person may remain isolated in their own home, afraid to go outside.

The problem with tackling mental health problems is that people don’t come forward to seek help because of the stigma associated with such problems. However, Qatar’s Mental Healthcare Strategy has set some important and ambitions goals for itself to achieve by 2018, these include: 

  • People seek help without fear of stigma
  • Range of information resources and supports available
  • Increased service utilization
  • High quality, well-resourced workforce
  • Services in a range of locations
  • Comprehensive standards and guidelines

Apart from Govt. initiated efforts, the private sector has a huge role to play in tackling mental health problems employees face at the workplace. The top three things that private sector companies in Qatar must do to support their employees include: 

• Creating workplace culture that supports mental health and enables people to seek help when they need it

• Commitment from senior leadership to support mental health and wellbeing in the company

• Clear mental health policies within the company that are implemented at all levels

In conclusion, as the Qatar National Mental Health Strategy says, “Most mental illnesses are caused by a combination of multiple biological, psychological and social factors, they can happen to anyone and people who unfortunately suffer from these need all the support they can get to overcome these burdens”. 

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