To disclose or not to disclose? That is the question. Are the employees comfortable confiding their mental health condition with their employer without being judged? Will they still get the same and fair treatment in their organization? Will they still retain their job? These are some of the major concerns of people experiencing mental illness towards their colleagues and their organization.
Before we proceed, it is good to first, understand mental health and mental illness fundamentals, especially for those who think this is just a typical emotion and does not require any medical intervention. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities can cope with the everyday stresses of life, can work productively and can contribute to his or her community. On the other hand, any alterations to the given definition due to major changes in a person’s mental state can be considered mental illnesses.
Depression and anxiety are the two most common mental health conditions that colleagues can observe in the workplace. People experiencing mental health problems can have different signs and symptoms, such as stopping themselves from getting on with life, it affects their mood over several weeks, and they might have suicidal thoughts in the long run.
At work, you might notice that they are more tired than usual. They might make uncharacteristic mistakes, it becomes difficult for them to be motivated, or you may also observe a person for having very short-tempered. Most of the time, people with poor mental health can negatively affect an employee’s job performance and productivity. Engagement and communication with coworkers are also affected.
Mental illness is no different from other diseases. If cancer requires medical intervention, it should be adequately assessed and adequately treated to increase the patient’s prognosis until fully recovered. It is the same for mental illness. If this will be evaluated appropriately and provided the right treatment, the chance of bringing back the mental well-being of a person is possible.
The mental health condition shouldn’t define a person for who he is. This is one reason why people with mental illness opt to keep their battle among themselves because people don’t understand what they are going through and their struggles. Also, they don’t get support from their family, friends and community. They choose to fight alone because of the fear of being discriminated against and the stigma from society.
The Philippine government passed the Mental Health Act, R.A. 11036, in 2018 to enhance the delivery of integrated mental health services, promote and protect the rights of persons utilizing psychiatric, neurologic and psychosocial health services. In line with this, the Department of Labor and Employment released a department order that will require all workplaces and establishments to formulate a mental health workplace policy and program that will promote mental health awareness, prevent stigma and discrimination, provide support to workers who are at risk with mental health conditions, facilitate access to medical health services and promote workers’ well-being towards healthy and productive lives.
Despite all government initiatives, employees in the workplace tend not to disclose because of the fear of losing their job, the stigma of being discriminated and the fear of losing the respect of their colleagues. However, according to the Mental Health Foundation, if we create workplace cultures where people can be themselves, i is easier for people to speak about mental health concerns without fear and easier for them to reach out for help when they need it.
The Human Resource leaders and corporate executives have vital roles in promoting mental health awareness and support in the organization. Most of the time, they interact with their people, and they can quickly identify should there be some changes in the behavior and routine of their employees. We don’t need to force them to disclose their mental health problem, but simply asking them how they are doing warmly and authentically and giving them a chance to realize that you are sincere and friendly will open the door to discuss their problem. You don’t need to provide any advice if you are not trained to handle this kind of counseling but just simply lending your ears and be there for them and ready to listen is enough. You may encourage them to seek medical assistance if suicidal thoughts have been verbalized during your discussion. By doing so, we can save our colleagues. We can save lives!
Bryan N. Bernabe is a DBA student at De La Salle University. He is also the Assistant Vice President in Employee Benefits at Philinsure. He almost a decade of experience in the insurance and insurance broker industry. He can be reached at [email protected].
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.