The reasons as to why people do anything, are many and complex. The research shows that around 65% of people won’t even seek treatment if they experience mental distress. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders. What about the many people in workplaces that don’t have a full blown mental disorder but are at risk? Here we look at three major reasons people have identified as to why they won’t ask for help.
It’s just stress. The most common mental disorders (anxiety and depression) tend to be insidious, in that they gradually worsen over time. Many sufferers don’t even realise they have a mental health issue, until it’s been months or even years since they’ve felt happy. It’s convenient for a sufferer to dismiss their situation as temporary or ‘just stress’. But there is a difference between ‘stress’ and something more serious.
Just suck it up. People tend to compare themselves with others, and if everyone else seems fine, then they don’t want to be the exception, or the ‘weak one’. People will compare themselves to their parents who ‘did it tough and never complained’. (The truth is that it’s likely they faced the same issues and felt the same way, it’s just that the conditions were less understood and there weren’t the resources widely available to assist.) It’s also very easy to feel inadequate when you’re seeing all your friends on social media, having a great time and appearing successful, when the reality is, that while few people share their fears and failures for all to see, they most certainly have them. When everyone around you seems to be coping and thriving, the act of admitting you need help and seeking it out can feel like you’ve failed somehow. And a lot of people would rather endure the symptoms than admit they need help.
Career suicide. Numerous surveys from Australia, the UK, US and Canada have shown that people with a mental health problems are unlikely to disclose it to their employer for fear of being treated less favourably. Even employment lawyers have been quoted advising employees to think twice before disclosing. Many employees believe that, if they disclose, they’ll be passed over for project and promotion opportunities, or that their ‘internal brand’ will be tarnished, or that the organisation will take steps to exit them.
As you can see, these are real concerns people have. There’s a need for management to take the lead and address these concerns lest them become part of the culture.