How to talk about mental health at work during the pandemic and the elections
As the boundaries between work and family life blur and the stress of Covid-19 and the presidential election is being built, you may be looking for more emotional support from your coworkers than usual.
“People are in a very difficult situation,” said Alison Holman, a professor at the University of California at Irvine, who studies mental and physical health related to trauma. CNBC do it. Have mental health symptoms, such as stress, anxiety and depression, is “a normal response to an abnormal situation”.
It’s important for organizations to foster a supportive and welcoming work environment that allows people to be fully authentic at work without fear of judgment, said Richa Bhatia, certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist at CNBC Make It. Even with formal ways to get support at work, talking about mental health can still be intimidating or just plain awkward.
Here are some strategies that can help you.
Depending on the relationship with your boss or manager, the culture and dynamics of your workplace, and your own personal comfort level, you might not feel safe disclosing details about your mental health. “It’s an individual decision,” and a decision that requires some planning, says Bhatia.
First, you need to determine whether you want to speak with your manager or with HR, whichever works best for you, Bhatia explains. “Employee assistance programs usually offer confidential counseling, which can be a safer place to start discussing your mental health,” she says. Or you could have a trustworthy, respectful, and low-key manager.
Then decide how much you owe or want to disclose, she says. For example, you could tell your manager that you are taking a mental health day because you are feeling exhausted. (If you need a specific accommodation from your manager or workplace, keep that in mind before speaking.)
And finally, choose to have this conversation when you feel relatively calm, she says. “Talk about it in a way where you can also discuss your strengths,” she says. For example, you could tell your manager that you have an ongoing therapy appointment to discuss stress and anxiety, and point out that counseling allows you to be more focused and productive during work hours.
Before the pandemic, studies showed that nearly one in five American adults living with mental illness, and the numbers are even higher now. Despite the pervasiveness of mental health issues, the stigma still exists. Surveys from the National Alliance for Mental Health found that eight in ten workers with a mental health problem say shame and stigma prevent them from seeking mental health care.
It is essential to remember that having mental health problems is not a weakness and that it does not mean that you are unable to do your job. “Everyone should understand that there are a lot of very successful people in the world who are living with mental health issues,” said Holman. “Incompetence is not synonymous with symptoms of mental health.”
The law also protects people with mental disorders through the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is a choice whether or not to disclose your mental health issues, and employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees.
By asking people, “How are you“is a standard conversation starter, it usually elicits a short response that doesn’t indicate how the person really is.
Instead, you can try asking questions like “How are you doing? Or “What is your current state of mind?” Or maybe, “How do you spend your time?” These types of questions indicate that it’s normal for people to share more and can be a good way to take people’s emotional pulse, Bhatia says.
In some cases, it may be more effective to simply offer your support and presence by telling someone, “I’m here if you ever need something or want to talk,” Bhatia says. Keep in mind that just because someone said they were fine one day, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel the same the next day.
Having the company and support of other people who are going through the same thing can make you feel less alone. That said, not everyone wants to express their feelings in the middle of a meeting with their bare hands, or even express their stress in a one-on-one meeting.
If people in your workplace tend not to speak up, or if you’re worried and want to hear from other members of your team, it’s important to create a safe space for people to express their thoughts and feelings. , says Holman.
For example, you can create a small, private Slack channel to record and share mental health resources, or set up regular video chat sessions to cover topics like stress and anxiety. (If this doesn’t exist in a format at your workplace, ask your HR representative to set it up.)