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Tag Archives: Mental Health Issues

workplaces fail at mental health

Why do so many workplaces fail at mental health?

There seems to be this idea floating about in the business world that in order to be profitable and productive, one needs to be hard and tough. Yet another contradictory idea seems to be that mental health is fluffy, soft, weak. Many people’s idea of good mental health is extreme. One where people have full love, consensus and agreement for all. Like everyone holding hands and singing Kumbayah. Nothing could be further from what’s required to promote and maintain a workplace’s mental wealth. Maybe that’s why so many organisations and leaders do so poorly at mental health. Either they adopt the “toughen up! take a spoonful of cement” approach, or they go too far the other way, with a “touchy, feely, anything goes” approach.

workplaces fail at mental healthMeanwhile, 1 in 5 Australians suffer from a mental disorder and countless others detest going to work. (The stats are similar in other developed nations by the way). How has it become such a pervasive problem in our organisations and why isn’t more being done about it? To understand why, we need to look at the dynamics between the players in our organisations and ask ourselves what might be stopping them from taking action.

The prevailing management style through much of the last couple of centuries has been to keep a professional distance from staff members. The manager’s job was to set the direction and manage the performance of the employee, and the employee’s job was to reliably perform their tasks to the best of their ability. It’s a similar relationship to that between a machine and it’s operator, which is not surprising, given much of the early work was done by men on assembly lines in factories. Employees were cogs in a machine, so to speak, and much of the management and HR thinking was (and still is) centred around ensuring enough employees are available to maintain production, and that they perform reliably and at maximum efficiency. It would be ridiculous for an operator to ask his machine, ‘Are you ok?’. Similarly, many managers today feel that asking an employee about their mental state is not appropriate – it’s too personal, or taboo, or simply ‘not my job’.

The reality is that the prevailing management paradigm is fundamentally not equipped to deal with mental health issues. And that’s the main reason so many workplaces fail. A new paradigm is needed, for a new world of work.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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Better-worse

Is Mental Health Really Getting Worse or Are We Just Talking About it More?

This is a question which frequently comes up in our training courses. And our answer to this is “a bit of column A, and a bit of Column B”.

Across the ages, people have always experienced mental health issues. Whether it was overwhelming anxiety, depression, or even ‘psychotic’ episodes, which in past times would more likely have been explained in a spiritual reference as either connection to the gods, or possession. But it’s always been there.

Better-worseIn more recent times (but really only in the last 100-200 years, mind you), we have started to medicalise mental health issues, measure and examine them. If you look at it on the surface, it is true, that we do indeed see increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with mental health issues. But the key there is in the ‘diagnosis’.

You see, it may be that with increasing awareness about mental or emotional distress, more and more people are going to seek help, and receiving a diagnosis. But we also need to consider that if we look at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association (with at least 56% of the panel members receiving funding from pharmaceutical companies) the number of mental health issues you can be diagnosed with has grown over the years. There are now hundreds of diagnoses you can get (we don’t recommend it).

Also the criteria for diagnosis of a mental health problem has been lowered over the years, to the point where many psychiatrists are actually speaking out against the current version of the DSM, particularly in the areas of grief and autism spectrum disorders, amongst others. When the latest version was put together many psychiatrists withdrew their participation and there were petitions against various aspects of it signed by hundreds of psychiatrists and mental health professionals. And yet it remains generally accepted as the “measurement” of mental health issues.

Add to that the fact that with increasing awareness and decreasing stigma around mental health issues, more people are reaching out to get help, and it would be reasonable to conclude that the actual numbers of people suffering are not actually on the increase, that it is purely the result of our diagnostic standards, and increasing awareness.

But, it gets more complicated than that. There are things in our current, modern lives, which we believe are also impacting on people’s general wellbeing. Just some of those include the increasing pace of change, increasing demands on us in terms of workloads, increasing opportunities to compare ourselves to others negatively (through globalization of media, social media, etc), increased use of medications (see our blog “3 little known things that are making people’s mental health worse”), new ways of viewing life which diminish personal responsibility, a culture of expectations, instant gratification, and entitlement, and the list goes on.

So, with all this in mind, how do we navigate the complex world of mental health? Well the first step is education – getting some good insight into these issues is an essential first step.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn Twitter-logo

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