Mental wellness is a broad term that refers to a person’s emotional, psychological, and social health. The state of one’s mental health directs thoughts, emotions and actions. It is a crucial factor that decides the individual’s ability to handle stress, connect with others and make decisions. Mentally sound employees can handle workplace stress better and ensure organizational productivity and career growth. However, mental health is a grossly neglected area in the workplace today.
Studies indicate that about 42.5% of employees in the Indian private sector are afflicted with general anxiety disorder or depression. Mental health problems are thus one of the most significant contributors to the global burden of disease and physical disability. In India, the economic cost of mental illnesses at work has not been accurately assessed. However, the WHO estimates the number to be 1.03 trillion dollars for the period from 2012 to 2030 (calculated according to the 2010 currency value of US dollars).
Mental health problems start quite benignly as stress. However, if left unchecked, they begin to impact employee performance and their motivation to work. Depression, irritability and fatigue start setting in, and consequently, there is a rise in the number of ‘sickness’ leaves. Apart from the numerous work performance issues, the worst impact of continuing mental illnesses is their impact on physical health. Poor mental health can lead to some debilitating and potentially deadly chronic diseases such as blood pressure, heart issues, insomnia and other sleep-related disorders, ulcers, reduced immunity, malfunctioning of the digestive system, and crippling body aches.
The stigma and apprehensions related to mental illnesses make most people conceal these issues for the longest time. However, there are certain symptoms which are an early indicator of the fact that all may not be well with a person’s mental health. Some of these are as follows.
- Lack or excess of sleep
- Withdrawing from social life and activities
- Feeling drained out of energy
- Becoming lackadaisical and inattentive
- Sudden, sharp and unexplained pains and aches
- Feeling depressed
- Indulgence in heavy smoking, consumption of alcohol or drugs
- Feeling confused about things
- Unexplained anger, and irritability
- Feelings of fear and worry
- Losing temper with family and friends
- Severe mood swings
However, it must be understood that these issues can affect anyone. There is no reason to feel ashamed about them, but instead, to come out and talk about what is ailing them. Once this apprehension to open up is overcome, it is possible to effectively manage the condition with a combination of lifestyle changes, exercise, meditation and medication (for more severe cases).
Mental wellness is crucial for the physical well-being of employees. When human resources are mentally healthy, they deliver superior performance themselves and also help others do better. However, a mentally unwell workforce will not only underperform but also be prone to severe physical ailments and disabilities.
The prevalence of mental illnesses among employees is on the rise due to workplace stress. It is important to create an ambient atmosphere based on the concepts of public health that addresses the issue holistically. Stigma and myths related to mental health issues must be eradicated with facts and societal support. We must not lose sight of the fact that mental illnesses can be cured. By enabling those who are affected, we are not only making them contribute more, but also help reduce the global disease burden.
With inputs from Dr M Udaya Kumar Maiya, Medical Director, Portea Medical
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