In today's economic climate, many can be forgiven for feeling 'grateful' to have a job. The added pressures of work life gets accepted very easily rather than questioned. Many even consider it a weakness if they are unable to cope.
But mental health is rising up in the workplace agenda. It ideally starts by having a conversation with the boss.
The perceived stigma of mental ill health prevents many sufferers from speaking to their employers about their condition, according to Tanya Dharamshi, a psychologist at The Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai. "The fear of being branded as an individual who cannot handle workload and the implications of this on job security make people reluctant to seek help within the workplace."
Work-related stress may result in mental health problems when experienced over a long period of time. It can have a long-term impact on an employee if not addressed and even permanently injure an employee.
Dr Caesar Zahka, consultant neurologist at Burjeel Hospital for advanced surgery, Dubai, said workplace wellness can have lot of effects on health. "Too much stress cause increase in blood pressure, increases in cortisol and sugar, insulin resistance, hyperacidity and peptic ulcer disease, insomnia and other sleeping problems, lack of energy etc. To ensure wellness, there should be cooperation and feeling of team work, administration should be reachable, there should be fairness and feeling of team work and helpfulness," he said.
Dr Bobomurod Keldiyorov, specialist family medicine, Canadian Specialist Hospital, said there is a staggering growth in lifestyle-related diseases (ex: diabetes) all due to unhealthy habits such as diet and lack of exercise.
Workplace wellness programmes can trigger and fuel behaviour change, influencing everything from employees' daily healthy habits to health in general.
"Employees can make changes in their lifestyles - like getting more sleep, quitting smoking, and eating less fast food - when they are educated about their health status through health screenings. They can treat and reverse any health risks (like high blood sugar or high blood pressure) before it's too late," he said.
Companies are more aware nowadays that there is a direct link between the health and happiness of the employees and productivity.
Due to this fact, they are keen to implement wellness programmes at the workplace by facilitating free health screening for their employees at the employer premises as well as constantly educating them about the health risks and how to prevent health issues through lectures and workshops specially designed for employees.
"Over time and continued strain on your body from routine workplace stress may contribute to serious health problems as well as mental disorders like depression or anxiety," said Dr Bobomurod.
Work-related stress and mental health issues often happen together. The symptoms of stress and common mental health problems are similar - loss of appetite, fatigue and tearfulness.
For people with existing mental health issues, work-related stress may worsen their problem. If work-related stress reaches a point where it has triggered an existing mental health problem, it becomes hard to separate one from the other.
A person may experience work-related stress depending on their job, psychological make-up and other factors such as personal life and general health.
Tanya said there are several approaches employees can take to raise the issue in the workplace and by 'tackling the taboo', they may be pleasantly surprised by the positive response.
Tanya and her team discusses mental health issues with both employers and staff. She has experienced a noticeable increase over the past six months of requests from companies wishing to include mental health awareness in their corporate wellbeing days and campaigns.
"There is far more awareness of mental ill health now, which has been supported by greater investment from the government. We can see the evidence of this with more requests coming through our dedicated 'mental health in the workplace' programme. It is hugely encouraging to witness the high level of acceptance in the region," she added.
"There is now a far deeper understanding and desire from employers to learn more and provide the required support for staff, in addition to recognising that a happy and healthy workforce is instrumental to the success of the company."
By Asma Ali Zain
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