Mental Illness in the Workplace

We tend to give mental illness an image from movies as One Flew over the Cuckoos Next or Girl, Interrupted. While the movie represents a form of severe mental illness, it is the subtle and quiet forms that often go undetected as well as ignored.

The workplace is a breeding ground for mental illness. Environments over the years have changed where we are all pushed to go over the top beyond to deliver at all costs. The system across the board is constantly downsizing and people are tasked to do more work in less time and with fewer resources. We are constantly connected to technology where there is no break from the pace or the demand for answers, even when on vacation. We have little room to catch our breath and the “press” weighs heavily on our souls.

The sad part is that we all have played a part in the creation of the toxic environments. We are conditioned to do what the boss says or use the “water cooler” as a place to vent rather than going to the source of one’s discomfort to solve the problem. That in itself fosters a vicious cycle of negative behaviors. I have seen jealousy at the root of many interoffice problems whether that looks like a leader’s ego running amuck, an employee bringing a personal wound to the workplace that continues to play itself out rather than seeking professional help as well as co-workers trying to sabotage another’s work to save face.

One’s internal psyche can repeatedly get battered if there is not a balance of joys in the workplace versus negative competition. It is not just the workplace’s fault because we all have a choice on how we will respond to a situation. If challenges in our personal lives are taking over who we are in the workplace, it is our responsibility to take the steps to constructively reduce the outside stress or approach a manager or HR for support. There are so many Employee Assistance Programs available that often go unused. There are many employers eager to offer guidance to a struggling employee. We are often afraid to reveal ourselves or not comfortable talking to anyone. Again, there are choices.

It is the responsibility of managers and co-workers to pay attention to changes in their co-workers behaviors. Many times if it’s not talked about, maybe it will go away. That is so far from the truth in any situation. The unspoken is often the ticking time bomb.

This is a conversation deserves more than one entry so it will be continued throughout the month.