Mental Health on the Job

Laura Mitchell's picture
By Laura Mitchell on June 6, 2018

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

While we all have days where we question our abilities or feel overwhelmed, significant mental health challenges can take many forms, and recognizing and addressing them sometimes “takes a village.”

We spend a significant amount of our waking hours at work, so that “village” may not be our friends and family, but our coworkers. So the WHO developed six tips for promoting mental well-being at work:

  1. Get moving: exercise reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression
  2. Be aware: look out for signs of stress or mental health problems among your coworkers
  3. Listen and be open: be supportive and nonjudgmental of people experiencing mental health problems
  4. Be ready: be aware of options for treatment or support for people with mental health problems
  5. Listen and talk: encourage coworkers in distress to talk, seek professional help and inform managers when they or others are at risk
  6. Take care of yourself, too: don't forget to ask for help when you need it

Depending on where you work, your employer may offer health insurance that covers mental health treatment, as well as other benefits, such as an EAP (employee assistance plan). An EAP program gives employees free, confidential access to professional counseling and referral services whether the challenge they are facing is personal, professional or family-related.
 
According to Carilion Clinic's EAP manager Neely Conner, L.C.S.W., EAP programs are positioned to provide assessment, referral and solution-focused counseling services. This short-term intervention can often resolve acute issues, such as interpersonal communications at work or a particularly stressful period for an individual or their family member.

For employees who need additional support, the EAP serves as a bridge to help them identify their options and connect with the best possible resources to meet their needs.
 
Carilion Clinic’s EAP team serves Carilion employees as well as the employees of many local and regional businesses.

"We help people with a multitude of concerns, including relationship challenges, grief and loss, work stressors and financial concerns, as well as substance misuse and mental health concerns," she said.
 
To get through a tough day, Carilion’s EAP team offers these stress-management tips:

  • Give yourself permission to say “no” to anything that is not important to you or essential to your work
  • Ask for help in the form of feedback, motivation and support in addition to more practical things
  • Take a break to rest your mind, stretch your body, meditate and reflect on positive affirmations and goals
  • Walk everywhere you can, especially if it means getting outside; a few minutes of fresh air and sunlight will help you focus better when you return to work

But if your concerns are more pressing, more long-lasting or more potentially damaging, self-help may not be enough. Talk to your primary care provider to learn about lifestyle changes, medications and specialists that can help.