Mental Health at Workplace

Generally, the mental health of a person is considered as the cognitive, behavioural, and emotional well-being of a person. It is concerned with how the individual thinks, feels, and behaves. The term “mental health” is sometimes used to mean the absence of a mental disorder. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and can make a contribution to his or her community.” The WHO stresses that mental health is “more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.” Peak mental health is about not only avoiding active conditions but also looking after ongoing wellness and happiness. The maxim, “there is no health without mental health” emphasizes that mental health is an integral and essential component of health. Mental health affects daily life, relationships and eventually overall physical health. Adults spend considerable time at work. Therefore, life at work is of paramount importance for the overall well being of an individual. Employees working in a positive, supportive and conducive environment remain motivated and productive at the workplace. On the other hand, a negative working environment may lead to health problems as well as alcoholism, absenteeism and low productivity.

There are many different mental disorders with different presentations. They are generally characterized by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others. Depression and anxiety disorders are common mental disorders that have an impact on our ability to work and to work productively. Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability. More than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders. Many of these people live with both. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Mental disorders contribute to a significant load of morbidity and disability, even though few conditions account for increased mortality. As per the Global Burden of Disease report, mental disorders accounts for 13% of total disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost for Years Lived with Disability (YLD) with depression being the leading cause. As per mental health survey of India, it is estimated that, excluding tobacco use disorders, mental morbidity of individuals above the age of 18 years currently is 10.6%. 150 million Indians need active interventions. Three crucial issues that influence the state of well-being of a person at the workplace may be identified as stress, disregard for acknowledgement and career stagnation.

Stress-related to work is a common cause of mental ill-health. Demand for more hours of work, unachievable high target, failing to rise to the occasion to meet ever-increasing expectations of stakeholders, peer pressure, multidimensional challenges and unhealthy relationship are some of the causes for building up of tension at work. To remain competitive and relevant in the changing world, organisations aim at achieving more profit with reduced cost and manpower. Overtly or covertly, employees are driven into anxiety and mental stress. It is interesting to note that a few companies depute the executives for “de-stress” programs after they are stressed-out. But they carry the same mental burdens there too. Work away from the office or off from work is not always a stress-buster. Peace from within and mental stability are keys to mental equilibrium. Stability will stave off disorders. Often at work, we are pushed to more than we can handle, but God never gives us more than He can handle. “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”(Phil.4:13). We must keep renewing our strength in the Lord from time to time. “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isa 40: 31).

Everyone craves for recognition for his or her hard work in the organisation. Absence of reward and award often lead to an emotional imbalance in the mind. Commendation of colleagues who seem to be less talented or to have achieved the target through unethical means destabilises the sound mind. Jealousy vitiates work atmosphere and affects our performance. Its tailing effects impact other areas of life and drive into depression. The Psalmist facing a similar situation in life declares, “Don’t be annoyed by anyone who does wrong and don’t envy them. They will soon disappear like grass without rain. (Psalm37:1-2 CEV). Let us explore God’s purpose in our lives as we expectantly look unto Him.

The Important aspect that has a tremendous impact on work-life is career growth. It is quite natural for executives and professionals in every field to expect the regular rise in the hierarchy of the organisations as they put heart and soul into the work. Denials of promotions have led many not only to heart-burns but also uncontrollable anxieties and abnormal psychological disturbance. It has impelled some persons to take drastic steps in life especially when the junior becomes the boss. In a corporation, the senior-most executive was bypassed by the Board to become CEO of the organisation. The person went into depression as his dream was dashed and it was beyond his imagination. Upon counselling and prayers, he was slowly brought into normalcy. He learnt his spiritual lessons from the verse: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Col.3:23-NLT). After one and a half year, the chief executive resigned. Then the Board invited the same senior-most executive to head the firm. The person understood God’s timing is always perfect for every event in his life including his elevation. Now he believes that his promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor the south. It is God who judges: He brings one down, He exalts another. Promotion or exaltation comes from God (Psalm75:6–7).

WHO declared 10th October every year to be observed as world mental health day. The world body has issued the following tips for “Workplace rules for a happy life” as follows: 1. Trust no one but respect everyone, 2. What happens in the office, remains in office. Never take office gossips to home and vice-versa, 3. Enter office in time, leave on time. Your desktop is not helping to improve your health, 4. Never make relationships in the workplace. It will always backfire, 5. Expect nothing. If somebody helps, feel thankful. If not, you will learn to know things on your own, 6. Never rush for a position. If you get promoted, congrats. If not, doesn’t matter. You will always be remembered for your knowledge and politeness, not for your designation, 7. Never run behind office stuff. You have better things to do in life, 8. Avoid taking everything on your ego. Your salary matters. You are being paid. Use your assets to get happiness, 9. It does not matter how people treat you. Be humble. You are not everyone’s cup of tea, 10. In the end, nothing matters except family, friends, home and inner peace (World’s Mental Health day Theme by WHO).

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us ( Heb 12:1) as God desires us to enjoy good health and that all will go well with us, even as our souls are getting along well (3John1:2).

References: 1. “what is mental health?’- Medical News Today, page 1, April 13, 2020, Adam Felman 2. WHO- World Mental Health day/2017. 3. National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16, pages 1 & 14, (NIMHANS)

Dr. Nanda Dulal works as Group Director in an organisation and presently lives with his wife Geetanjali in Bangalore.

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