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Back-to-Basics Approach Supports Mental Health

mental health
  • Published
  • 11 May 2022
  • Category
  • General

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This year the theme is “back to basics.” This post, contributed by Mental Health America, includes additional insights from WorkCare.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more employees have started to view mental health as an important component of their overall sense of well-being – just like their physical health. However, mental health conditions, resources and conversations can still feel complicated and out of reach.

Some employees are just now becoming aware of contributing factors and mental health disorder warning signs. They may have been reluctant to admit they need an evaluation or not be aware of resources that are available to them.

About half of the U.S. population will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life. At any given time, it is estimated about 1 in 5 Americans has a mental health disorder. In many cases, these conditions are not diagnosed or treated. Everyone benefits from a better understanding of the range of mental health issues that may be encountered in the workplace, at home and in a community.

Risk Factors

There’s often not one single cause for a mental health condition. Instead, there are many possible risk factors that can influence how likely a person is to experience a mental health disorder and how serious symptoms may be. Risk factors include:

  • Experiencing a traumatic event or ongoing trauma
  • Environmental impacts on health and quality of life
  • Social determinants such as financial stability and access to care
  • Family history/genetics and brain chemistry
  • Behaviors and lifestyle choices, such as sleep habits

It can be difficult to assess one’s own health status when suffering from a condition that affects the ability to think clearly, or that causes depression, anxiety, fatigue or a host of other possible symptoms. Thoughts, feelings and behaviors may be indicators of a pattern caused by a mental health condition. Asking yourself or inviting others to answer questions like these can provide useful insights:

  • Have things that used to feel easy started feeling really difficult?
  • Have I lost interest in activities and hobbies I used to enjoy?
  • Do I feel irritated, possibly to the point of lashing out at people I care about?
  • Have I been using substances such as drugs or alcohol to relieve symptoms?

Screening Tools

There are self-screening tools available online that can be used to help identify signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction, as well as assessments for children and teenagers.

Employers are encouraged to review a workplace mental health survey to identify ways in which they can support best practices. On a scale of strongly agree to strongly disagree, employees are asked to rate their employer’s commitment in response to 20 statements, including 1) My company invests time and energy into building a diverse workforce. 2) My identity and perspective are valued. 3) I regularly experience microaggression at work. 4) I feel mentally or emotionally safe in my workplace. 5) Workplace stress affects my mental health.

Following up with mental health and human resource professionals on findings from self-assessments and workplace attitude surveys is a good way to start with the basics and establish a solid foundation for mental health education and effective interventions over time.

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