Why Mental Health is Often Ignored in the Workplace and What You Can Do About it
Although it is an urgent matter, there is a great ignorance when it comes to mental health in the workplace. All the more reasons why you as an employee should take action.
The health care system has it worst
Mental health in the workplace is an issue of increasing importance. Yet, it is still ignored or not adequately addressed in many work environments. Especially in the health care system is highly effected by mental health issues. A study of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) revealed that 98% of health care professionals in Europe know the feeling of exhaustion and burning out in relation to their work. We know that we are in the middle of a mental health crisis, when those who are supposed to help us with our health issues can’t because they themselves don’t have any space to heal.
Why I care so much?
Having seen what a burnout can do to people I love and care about, I know that it is no joke. Especially high performers tend to downplay mental health issues for way too long until it becomes a serious problem. Mental health issues like burnout can lead to longterm disability and impact your life and the ones of your loved ones severely. Your mental health is nothing you should play with. Ever.
Which factors can lead to work related mental health issues?
Employee workers, in particular, are often exposed to external stressors over which they do not have any control. At the same time, they benefit little from the company's profits. This combination can quickly lead to what is known as a gratification crisis - a reward crisis. A gratification crisis refers to a specific form of stress in the workplace. It occurs when workers feel that their work is not adequately rewarded or valued, both financially and in terms of recognition and appreciation. Other forms of recognition and appreciation also play a critical role like development opportunities, working conditions, support and recognition. An imbalance between work investment and reward can lead to a variety of negative mental health outcomes. If mental health issues are consistently neglected in the work environment, this can result in a vicious cycle of more and more exhaustion that can eventually lead to burnout.
Why is mental health still ignored in so many workplaces?
Mental health is a topic not often addressed by employers. In a performance-oriented society, success is often measured by objective standards such as income, position in the hierarchy, educational attainment, or the number of goals achieved. Of course these are very important factors in the workplace but they are not all there is to. A society that doesn’t allow room for people to heal properly is in itself not a healthy society. There are many reasons why mental health issues are so often ignored in workplaces.
Stigma and ignorance:
There is still a stigma associated with mental health issues in society. This stigma is often reflected in work environments where mental health is considered a taboo topic. Many employers and colleagues may have limited understanding of mental illnesses and their impact on work performance. Lack of knowledge and of education are some of the biggest factors contributing to stigma and discrimination.
Lack of prioritization:
In many companies, the focus is on maximizing productivity and efficiency. Mental health is often neglected because it is not seen as an immediate factor for company success. The long-term effects of untreated stress and mental strain are often overlooked, despite the high costs that companies incur due to long-term employee absences.
Lack of resources and support:
Often, there is a lack of adequate resources and support systems for mental health in the workplace. There may be a lack of awareness programs and education about mental health, as well as limited access to therapy or counseling services. This results in employees not being able to address or treat their mental health adequately.
What you can do in order to improve mental health in your work environment
As an employee you don’t have all the power yet it is important to step up for your mental health especially when the organization you work in turns a blind eye. Here are some very impactful things you can do, when you want to improve how mental health is viewed in your workplace:
Pay attention to your own mental health and recognize signs of overwhelm and stress. Rapid heartbeat, sleep disturbances, overeating or undereating, pain, or panic attacks can all be reactions to chronic stress. Be honest with yourself and seek professional support if needed. It is important to recognize your own limits and take care of yourself.
Communicate openly and directly:
Speak openly about mental health, whether with colleagues or supervisors. Share your concerns and experiences to raise awareness and create a supportive environment. By sharing stories and experiences, you can also encourage others to address their mental health. This helps create a space of trust where mental health does not have to be a taboo topic.
Utilize available resources:
Familiarize yourself with the resources available in your workplace, such as employee assistance programs or workplace health initiatives. Take advantage of these offerings to seek support and guidance. If necessary, look for external resources such as therapists or support groups.
Prioritize recovery time in your leisure:
Create space outside of work that is solely for your benefit. You can customize this time freely, but make sure to engage in activities that energize you. Creative activities like painting, dancing, playing music, or drawing can be good ways to reduce your stress levels. Additionally, you can use artistic expression for self-reflection. If you don't have an artistic practice yet, I recommend participating in art workshops. You can also propose artistic workshops for your entire team. This has the advantage of allowing you to express yourself artistically under guidance while being surrounded by like-minded individuals. This way, you can build relationships and experience how communities can support you during challenging times.
You need to take responsibility for your mental health
Mental health in the workplace is an important issue that is unfortunately often ignored. As an employee, you can actively contribute by taking care of your own mental health, speaking openly about the topic, and utilizing available resources. By implementing self-care, setting clear boundaries, fostering supportive relationships, and using creative stress management techniques, you can take proactive steps to prevent burnout and enhance your overall well-being in the workplace. If needed, seek professional help to support and restore your mental health. In the end of the day it is all about raising your voice.
Because there is only one person responsible for your life and that is you.