19 May 2021
By: Stéphanie Crites

Mental Health at the Heart of Our Concerns

The labour market has changed dramatically in recent decades. To adapt to this shift, employees and employers have had to be flexible. With the rapid pace of global trade, labour shortages and increased competitiveness, they had to work hard to create an environment for success.

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant challenge which has been added to this reality. The workforce is now facing uncertainty. During these challenging times, loneliness, anxiety, depression and stress are more prominent than ever. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada is negatively impacting the emotions of the population with 77% of adults reporting negative emotions. Therefore, it is important to put mental health at the top of our concerns.

Mental Health: Well-being and Fulfillment

Every day, we encounter different factors that either support or undermine our mental health. These factors come from the physical, personal, social, economic and biological environments. Since it is impossible to avoid all negative factors, it is important to listen to ourselves in order to understand and not to suppress our feelings. Similar to a birthday balloon that is blown up repeatedly, there comes a point where we have to stop or it will explode! Mental health is about balance. If you accumulate too many negative factors, you will be overwhelmed and may experience discomfort. You want to avoid exploding like an over-inflated balloon!

In order to avoid this unpleasant state, you must develop a coping mechanism that allows you to restore your balance. However, you must be patient. Think of young children who are blowing up their first balloon. They don’t know when to stop. Therefore, it’s all about getting to know yourself.

Whether they are the result of over-investment at work, isolation, financial problems, poor nutrition, family obligations, etc., emotions are normal. We must allow ourselves to feel them in order to better understand them and thus target our needs. This will allow us to adopt coherent strategies.  We must take the time to analyze our emotional and behavioural reactions caused by positive and negative factors. For example, I have learned that lack of sleep can lead to a loss of motivation and concentration. As a result, I make sure I get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. It is important to identify what contributes to your well-being and what contributes to your unwellness in order to change your habits.

Mental Health at Work

Mental health has a significant impact on work in terms of motivation, productivity and absenteeism. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, more than 21% of the working population suffers from a mental health disorder or illness, which represents a $6.3 billion loss in productivity for Canadian organizations.

Several factors can have a negative impact on mental health at work:

  • Lack of recognition;
  • Lack of decision-making power;
  • Negative climate;
  • Unrealistic expectations;
  • Lack of stimulation and the possibility of progression;
  • Difficulty in delegating;
  • Etc.

The employee, now responsible for managing his or her career, must promote well-being by adopting different strategies. Actions can be put in place such as establishing a routine, encouraging social contacts, eating well or taking breaks. The worker must be aware of his or her needs and limits and know how to communicate them to his or her superior. For some, the idea of having this kind of conversation can be stressful. In order to feel better, you can prepare yourself for this meeting by structuring your thoughts. You may also want to focus on some concrete suggestions for help that you could be given. It is important to work as a team to achieve wellness.

Where to start?

For everyone to reach good mental health, it must be everyone’s business. Workplaces need to create the same conditions for mental health as they do for physical health. First and foremost, employers must offer active listening and foster a climate of trust to allow employees to express themselves. They must communicate with empathy and be able to provide useful information on resources, policies, programs and training. They need to be open-minded and flexible in order to provide support to employees based on their needs. For example, a schedule adjustment, access to appropriate equipment, possibility of unpaid vacation, etc.

The task description must take into account the employee’s mental abilities as well as their physical abilities. The job should be reasonably challenging and the expectations should be clear. It is possible to initiate certain practices that encourage mental wellness, such as planning weekly meetings to review progress, building a support system at work, organizing a virtual team lunch or a fundraising walk, etc.

Finally, the preparation of a return-to-work plan with the immediate supervisor of a person who has experienced mental health problems is greatly encouraged. In short, everyone must set an example in order to make mental health a central part of the company’s culture.

Conclusion

There is no place for prejudice, stigma and discrimination in mental health. These can worsen the suffering of people with mental illness. Society must make a collective effort to act on this issue. It is important not to wait until the symptoms of psychological distress are too advanced to inform your personal and professional entourage. Simply talking about it makes the emotions less intense and allows us to feel better. If you feel as though you have lost control and the symptoms are too advanced, do not hesitate to contact your doctor, a counsellor or an intervention line. It is important to take care of yourself and reduce your feelings of helplessness.

Stéphanie Crites
 
Stéphanie Crites, C.O

Organizational Guidance Counselor and Senior Talent Management Consultant

Références

Canadian Mental Health Association

Ordre des conseillers et conseillères d’orientation du Québec

Ordre des CRHA du Québec

World Health Organization

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Mental Health Commission of Canada

Mouvement santé mentale Québec

Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

https://educaloi.qc.ca/

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