Mental health in the workspace
These days mental health has never been more relevant.
We’re hearing about many conditions that can affect and are affecting people, making them prisoners in their minds. Imagine that, a prisoner in your mind, asking every day where is the key to unlock the doors and get out? If you don’t take care of your mental health, you will find a key but only to find out that the doors are gone.
I will be more specific here and talk about general problems of mental health and dangers that hide behind the IT workspace. I remember having an experiment in elementary school where we put cupric sulfate anhydrous in a water container - then we put a white rose inside. Over time, not in a day but a week, rose changed its color to blue. Things you’re surrounded with daily affects you and change you. You may not notice it right away, but you’ll turn your head around and, you will be blue as well as the rose did. IT workspace, as specific as that cupric sulfate anhydrous was, brings its colors. The point of this blog will be to define what those colors are, how do they color you, and what you can do on preserving your original color.
Problems with mental health treatment
One of the main issues people in general face with their mental health is that they find it too late.
It’s like cancer, growing infection and destroying your body.
Another issue is that even if the person recognizes their symptoms, they don't know who to turn to for help. Counseling may be too expensive; they may be ashamed, which is a whole another problem for a whole different blog, they don't take it seriously, and that’s what makes everything super hard.
The stigma that mental health poses are a heavy and ugly one. Considering it as something trivial makes every system fall back upon its development.
Another problem is that people are not often genuinely empathetic towards people suffering from some mental disorders or issues which may have them behave out of the line of their normal routine.
As we are creatures of habits, we often feel that going against ‘our nature is not something we should strive for.
A problem that I defined right now is illogical. Why? Because it’s silly to be okay with someone saying that they are having problems with their bones for example, but to say that they’re depressed or anxious is taboo. That’s that ugly stigma I mentioned above. To fight this, everyone must raise the awareness of mental health as the battle for the destigmatization of mental health progresses.
Health problems that work in the IT industry may cause
The British Interactive Media Association (BIMA - https://www.bima.co.uk/Tech-and-Inclusion-Report) recently revealed that tech workers are five times more likely to suffer from a mental health problem, compared to the wider population. Between four and 10 percent of UK adults are thought to experience depression at some point in their lives but this figure pales in comparison to the tech sector, whereas many as 52 percent of the workforce admitted to suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression at work.
Two-thirds of those surveyed stated that their work has caused high levels of stress, with 13 percent of these workers experiencing this emotional strain constantly. This work-based stress is also causing severe prolonged headaches, sleep deprivation, and anxiety attacks. Stress is also more commonly experienced by women in tech, with BIMA finding that men were just nine percent as likely to experience high levels of workplace stress.
Seems that IT affects differently, why may that be?
In another study produced by the Mental Health Foundation found that 38 percent of people would fear for their job security and prospects if they spoke up about a mental health problem. A further 17 percent worry about facing judgment from their colleagues. This highlights the need for companies and their workers to have an increased focus on educating themselves around mental health. This will help individuals to self-identify issues and enable organizations to provide proper support.
Employees working in the IT industry are prone to develop a lot of health problems due to the continuous physical and mental stress of their work. Diseases are either induced, sustained, or exacerbated by stress. The common health problem due to stress is acid peptic disease, alcoholism, asthma, diabetes, fatigue, tension headache, hypertension, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, psychoneurosis, sexual dysfunction, and skin diseases such as psoriasis, lichen planus, urticaria, pruritus, neurodermatitis, etc. Globalization and privatization have brought new work relationships, job insecurity, insecurity regarding future working conditions and rapid obsolescence of skills are causes of stress.
Stress at work has been linked with coronary heart disease and metabolic syndrome in retrospective and prospective studies.[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439723/#ref2] The biological mechanisms remain unclear.[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439723/#ref3] The pathophysiological mechanisms involve direct neuroendocrine effects and indirect effects mediated by adverse health behaviors.[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439723/#ref4 The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439723/#ref7] Characteristics of the metabolic syndrome are abdominal obesity, atherogenic dyslipidemia (raised triglycerides, small low-density lipoprotein particles, and low concentrations of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), high blood pressure (BP), insulin resistance (with or without glucose intolerance), and prothrombotic and proinflammatory states. Studies have found a social gradient in work stress and metabolic syndrome,[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439723/#ref9] suggesting greater exposure to working stress among less advantaged social groups. Cross-sectional studies have linked work stress with components of the syndrome,[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439723/#ref11] but this association is not consistent.[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439723/#ref12]
Technostress is the word used to explain the phenomenon of stress arising due to the usage of computers. It is a modern disease of adaptation caused by the inability to cope with new computer technologies healthily.
We at ITO have understood the meaning and importance of mental health in the workplace, so we’ve conducted scientific research within our company to understand even more the state of the mental health of our employees;
A survey of depression conducted in the ITO found that 67% of respondents did not have depression, 23% had mild, 5% had moderate, and 5% had severe depression.
As it turned out, most respondents are not depressed, and a small proportion of them have a mild depressive disorder that is common in the general population. Respondents may often experience some symptoms of depression, but they do not confirm the existence of a depressive disorder, i.e., depression. But such a result should not be understood as a final diagnosis, nor as a recommendation for treatment, although consultation with a psychologist in everyday life is often recommended.
How to recognize symptoms of early mental health issues?
The same way you educate yourself about what you can eat without making you sick, that way you should be educated on what you should let in your mind and not get sick. Having let something poison you will start to show signs of sickness, and you should know what are the early signs so you can prevent it from spreading.
Here are some early signs for you to know when you’re experiencing problems:
1. Feeling sad or down
2. Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
3. Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
4. Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
5. Withdrawal from friends and activities
6. Significant tiredness, low energy, or problems sleeping
7. Detachment from reality, paranoia, or hallucinations
8. Inability to cope with daily problems and stress
9. Trouble to understand and relate to situations and people
10. Problems with alcohol or drug use.
11. Major changes in eating habits
12. Sex drive changes
13. Excessive anger, hostility, or violence
14. Suicidal thinking
Even if the mind is poisoned, it reflects well on our physical state. Therefore, symptoms of mental health issues that may appear are physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headaches, or other unexplained aches and pains.
How to tell your boss you’re experiencing issues?
It’s hard enough to deal with mental issues themselves - now you have another obstacle: Telling your boss that you need some time off because you are having a hard time. Taking stigma into account, the fear of maybe losing your job is a dangerous combination that frightens even the strongest and makes them withdraw and suffer in silence. Luckily, people in the IT sector are more “worldly” and are more familiar with topics such as mental health is. Even so, that step of telling your boss, it’s never easy.
Approaching your boss about this should be dealt with in honesty. If you’re not that close to your boss, you should simply say that you want a day off for mental health. If you’re close with your boss, opening up and disclosing some of your issues at the level of your comfort, according to a wide range of therapists, is something positive and makes the working relationship even stronger.
The formula of telling such news to your boss is always dependent on your workspace and the general atmosphere: You should always take into account where you should meet your boss to tell them about this, formulate your words and problems before the meeting and just be honest.
How to cope with mental health issues at work?
To be healthy is to live healthily. Healthy may be subjective at times, considering that people heal at a different pace, they deal with their issues differently. Some people when they’re down just want peace and a book, some people will go too far lengths, picking up some weights and train. Some people will play some videogames and distance themselves, some people will just sleep. It’s highly depending on what kind of a person you are.
But to be general, there are some things you can do even today that will help you out!
IT can be a crowded place, assuring yourself with some comfortable place will put things in touch.
Eating a healthy breakfast and drinking enough water will surely remove the physical obstacles. You know how they say, healthy body - healthy spirit.
Make a to-do list!
Feeling overwhelmed from a mountain of work can contribute to anxiety and depression, so making a to-do list can help people stay on track.
Talk to human resources because if they’re told that an employee is under emotional distress, they are required by law to address the issue.
Also, identifying triggers can help a lot. If you’re not sure what are your triggers are, keeping a journal of the things that have led to stress to identify them, can help.