With the rise in awareness of the term ‘mental health’, are employers any closer to really understanding what this means?

We hear the term anxiety, stress, bi polar and depression being frequently used, however these only describe describe the bi product of weeks, months and even years of inner turmoil.

The labels of anxiety or depression, as two of the most common mental health disorders, are an umbrella reference for the mental and physical breakdown of the mind and body.  These conditions will always have root causes.

People don’t wake up one day anxious or depressed.  These states of mind and body are a slow burn.

How depression can be developed 

Let’s take the example of Mary.

Mary works in Publishing, and over the last 6 months her workload has slowly been increasing as a result of cuts being made to the companies headcount.  Mary has been feeling the pressure of her increased workload along with an underlying fear of loosing her job.  Mary is single and lives alone and doesn’t have anyone to support her financially.

Worries about loosing her job have started to compromise Marys sleep, and she is finding it increasingly difficult to switch off when she gets home.  To help her relax, Mary has started to turn more frequently to red wine because she feels it takes the edge off.  Marys energy levels have now started to dip considerably due to her broken sleep and her body processing the additional toxins as a result of her increased drinking.

She wakes feeling more tired and is now drinking more coffee to keep her going.  Her dip in energy levels also means she has started to become less disciplined with her food choices and has been picking up convenience food for dinner on her way home from work and snacking on less healthy foods during the day.

At work she finds her ability to focus becoming a struggle and her motivation and productivity levels taking a significant drop.

As the weeks slip past Mary notices her stomach developing cramps and feeling bloated.  Mary goes to her G.P. who tells her she has IBS and gives her medication.  Mary tries to change her diet, but as she is feeling so fatigued, she finds herself going for what is quick and easy and hopes the medication will help her IBS.  A combination of the IBS and her energy levels have also meant she is finding more and more reasons to stop exercising.

After a period of time, Mary is also feeling more emotional and overwhelmed and finding herself becoming tearful over small things.  Normally a chirpy and confident person, Mary feels disconnected and is becoming more insular.

Mary goes back to her G.P. and is now told she has depression.  She leaves with a prescription for anti depressants.

Had Mary had the insight of how to take care of herself mentally, emotionally and physically, could this have been a different story? Yes.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power.

The more employees are given the knowledge of the mind and body and how to build resilience and wellbeing, mental health conditions can be prevented.  We can still teach employees about mental health, but if we are to prevent mental health in the long term, the training people receive need to show how these conditions are reached, and how to prevent them.