Mental Health at Work

In any one-year period, approximately one in five Australians will suffer from some form of mental illness. The most common of these illnesses are anxiety and depression. It comes as no surprise then that many people in the workplace find themselves struggling to cope with the symptoms of these illnesses, without having the support structures or strategies in place.

The first step to dealing with mental health issues in the workplace is being able to recognise the signs of depression and anxiety. These are two different but closely related conditions.

Depression is a condition that is present for at least two weeks. It presents in an array of negative outcomes, including changed behaviour, consistently negative thoughts and feelings and reduced physical health. People may no longer want to mix in social circles. They often exhibit feelings of guilt, despair, frustration and other similar emotions.

Anxiety presents in a physical signs including hot and cold flushes, racing heart, a tightening of the chest, obsessive thinking, compulsive behaviour and worries spiralling out of control. 

If you think a colleague may be suffering mental health issues, it would be wise to talk to them and encourage them to seek support. In the event that you feel that you are suffering from depression or anxiety, it is best – first and foremost – to seek help from a health professional.

It may well be that a continued role in the workplace is the best thing for you, as the social benefits that work can bring can prevent you from becoming more isolated. Additionally, continued participation in the workforce can provide the following benefits:

  • Improved quality of life and general sense of well being
  • Gives a meaningful sense of structure and purpose
  • Provides financial security

Of course, everybody’s circumstances are different and open, honest dialogue with your management and human resources department will help you to determine what the best course of action is for you.

In the event that you feel like you would like to remain at work, then it may be necessary to work with your HR department to ensure that you have a system in place that will help you to manage the situation. It may be necessary to set up some arrangements for ongoing support and feedback – either from a manager or from a trusted mentor within the organisation. In addition, it could be helpful to assess your duties and to consider whether some of the duties of your job are adding to or alleviating your current stress levels.

If, on the other hand, it becomes clear that you would be best served by having some time off, then it is important to keep the lines of communication open. Some areas to be mindful of are to:

  • Set up regular meetings with management to keep in touch with the workplace
  • Inform your manager if you are up to receiving visits from colleagues
  • Consider allowing your manager to contact your GP for regular updates.

Regardless of your circumstances, it is important to realise that while mental health issues are quite common, everybody’s circumstances will be unique. Seeking help from medical professionals and working with your workplace human resources team can help to get you back on track.

The CFS Team
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