It’s World Mental Health Day today – 10th October. This year’s theme is Mental Health in the Workplace.
The WHO has listed some key facts on this theme. They include:
Work is good for mental health but a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems.
Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
Harassment and bullying at work are commonly reported problems, and can have a substantial adverse impact on mental health.
There are many effective actions that organizations can take to promote mental health in the workplace; such actions may also benefit productivity (http://www.who.int/mental_health/in_the_workplace/en/).
None of this will sound particularly surprising or new. A job well-done can contribute to our own sense of wellbeing. Making a difference has been cited by many as a reason to do the work they do. I’m sure many of us have had conversations around the differences we make to people’s lives as psychological professionals.
It seems though that more and more of us are finding our working environments more challenging with the pressure on targets, focus on costs and ‘doing more for less’. These negative working environments can have an impact on us and consequently on the work we do. If the environment is challenging then containing the emotional distress of our service users/patients will be more effortful despite our best intentions. There’s also an increase in reports of bullying and harassment at work with reports of 1 in 4 healthcare staff reporting this.
It’s disappointing that we are still repeating these experiences and citing these facts; and that organisationally we seem to struggle to tackle these difficulties. Making effective changes to improve our working lives does not always have to be seismic in its scope. Individual teams can make a difference to their members and as members of teams we are part of this. While this does not resolve the bigger difficulties around funding, structural change and re-organisation, we can connect with each other on a human level.
Taking time to talk, making a tea or coffee for a colleague, asking how people are – even just saying hello can make a difference to us. Making an effort can change our own interactions and make our own experiences better. Our previous experiences don’t have to predict our future behaviour as some of us say to the people with whom we work. Keeping our experiences the same and retreating does not encourage wellbeing or growth.
So, while being able to change the world may be the ultimate aim, all journeys start with a single step and we can decide to take that step to change. We may not know what wellbeing in the workplace looks like for all but starting with ourselves and our colleagues has the potential to reduce some negative aspects. Then we change the world…..