Mental Illness at Work - 14 March 2016
Mental illness – especially depression and anxiety – is the leading cause of employee sickness and absence in most developed countries. But even when mentally ill employees are at work, it can be challenging for leaders to know the most appropriate and effective support they need.
A major new analysis, led by the University of NSW, aims to fill that gap in understanding. The researchers have conducted the first-ever meta-analysis of workplace mental health interventions, which means they’ve reviewed hundreds of studies to determine what works.
What they’ve discovered is that there are several promising solutions that seem to work relatively well. These include employee control, such as giving employees the latitude to choose their own shifts; physical activity, such as the running of on-site exercise programs; health promotions, such as healthy eating campaigns; and counselling, such as the services offered by EAP programs.
But those solutions, while legitimate and worthwhile, have been found to pale in comparison to the positive outcomes associated with stress management programs. Workplace stress can be a significant aggravator of mental illness so anything that can help employees to more effectively cope with stress can be of substantial assistance. This can include:
- Problem-solving strategies: Workshops or coaching sessions that teach employees how to focus, brainstorm, persevere, and learn from experience.
- Coping skills: Information and guidance on how employees can practice self-discipline, connect with others, express how they feel, and accept themselves.
- Identification of stressors: An awareness of specific triggers – such as changes, deadlines, emails, interactions, and workloads – and the ways in which these can be controlled.
- Relaxation techniques: Meditation, deep breathing, visualisation exercises and yoga.
- Therapy: Especially cognitive-based solutions delivered by qualified professionals.
And the best thing about these practices? They’re of benefit not only to mentally ill employees but each one of their colleagues, too. Including you.
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