Physical and mental health are equally important to maintaining your health and wellbeing. However, while it is perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged, to call off a day or two of work to take care of the flu or another physical illness, the same practice does not apply to mental illnesses. Promoting the value of mental wellbeing is often overlooked and even completely ignored in the workplace.
The World Health Organization Constitution Principles describe health as ”A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Mental disorders affect around 20% of all American adults, with nearly 4% are classified as serious mental illness. These illnesses can be associated with chronic physical illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. Unfortunately, those suffering from mental illnesses may also experience an increased risk of physical injury and death due to accidents, violence, and suicide.
Among adolescents and young adults, suicide is responsible for more deaths than cancer, heart disease, congenital anomalies, respiratory disease, influenza, pneumonia, stroke, meningitis, septicemia, HIV, diabetes, anemia, and kidney and liver disease combined.
This lack of treatment stems back years and years ago, to when the idea began that disorders of emotion, thinking, and behavior lacked legitimacy and instead were reflections of personal weakness or poor life choices. Due to this huge misconception, the treatment of mental illness is often not as advanced and more stigmatized than physical illness treatment.
In fact, if you were to look around your workplace, you most likely wouldn’t be able to tell who is struggling with mental health issues. While there may be some clues of someone who is struggling mentally – appearing teary, withdrawn, or even agitated – many times there is no outside, visual sign. One of the only ways to know that someone is struggling mentally is for them to share their feelings. However, mental illness can often be a very private part of us and something that we don’t want to share with others, especially in our workplace. It is easy to put on the appearance that everything is just fine, rather than showcase your struggles. It’s time to wake up and realize that mental health issues are just as important as physical illnesses, and need to be treated just as seriously.
Why Being Upfront about Mental Health is Important
Recognizing your mental health needs helps to create an open and honest environment. In addition, talking about your struggles can help alleviate some of the feelings you might have. It can help reduce feelings of loneliness, and you might realize that others are feeling the same way as you. Remember that it is against the law to be discriminated against due to mental health reasons.
Here are five reasons why you should never ignore your mental health:
- Mental illness is common
About 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some form of mental health issues. Take a look around your office. Chances are, someone else is struggling with mental health issues as well. You are not alone in your battle, and that is important to remember.
- Mental illness can affect your physical health
Don’t separate your physical health from your mental health. It may seem obvious, but the brain is part of your body, and you shouldn’t overlook it. Mental illness may be the root cause of many physical symptoms. For example, if you suffer from insomnia, heart palpitations, or fatigue, your doctor will want to rule out depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions that may be a potential cause. The American Heart Association even released a statement that recommends that depression be considered a risk factor for patients with acute coronary syndrome.
- Diseases can increase your risk
Some conditions can actually increase your risk of having a mental illness. Chronic diseases like cancer, MS, diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s, and even head trauma injuries can raise your risk of mental illnesses. However, doctors are becoming more aware of this, so hopefully, it will become less of an issue in the future.
- Early detection is key
Just like with most physical conditions, if you are able to detect and diagnose mental health issues early on, it can often lead to a better outcome. Getting the help you need can help prevent the symptoms from getting worse and prevent negative effects those symptoms might have on your life. For example, early treatment can help reduce the strain on relationships and even help increase your productivity at home and work.
- It can be hereditary
Looking at the history of your family’s mental health can help determine your risk for a certain mental illness. You should always inform your doctor of any issues that may run in your family.
How To Talk About Your Mental Health
While it isn’t easy to talk about your mental health, it is essential to do so. Here are some tips and hints to help you talk about your mental health at work. Of course, every workplace is different, so tailor this advice to fit you and your needs best.
- 1.Consult others
Depending on your situation, you could try speaking to HR. If you aren’t confident or don’t have a strong relationship with your boss, you can reach out to HR to help support you. Or, you might find it best to talk with a colleague. Having a workplace friend who can regularly check-in with you and can help you manage your workload could be very beneficial to you.
- 2.Assess your needs
Decide what type of support you need. You shouldn’t ask someone for help if you aren’t sure what you hope to gain from disclosing this information. Is it something in the short-term like a little flexibility with deadlines or reducing your hours for the next couple of weeks. Or, do you want a long-term solution, like working remotely?
- 3.Find the right time
You won’t know what your mental health will be like in the future, but you can try to find a good day and time to bring up the topic. Try to speak to your boss or HR on a day when things are calm in the office. Pick a meeting spot where you are comfortable and can talk calmly. Even taking a walk can be a good way to bring a fresh perspective to your feelings.
Ultimately, you must take care of yourself. You wouldn’t leave a broken leg untreated for months at a time, so don’t treat any mental health issues any different. Start taking your health seriously again.