Dealing with Mental Health Problems in the Workplace

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “In 2013, there were an estimated 43.8 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. with AMI [any mental illness] in the past year. This represented 18.5 percent of all U.S. adults.” Because mental illness and other mental health problems are so prevalent in our society, it is important to understand how best to cope with these issues in day-to-day life. Many individuals with mental disorders have jobs, and the workplace is a location in which dealing with these problems can be especially difficult. However, you can learn how to do so over time as long as you have the right tools.

Your Job, Your Mental Health

mental health at work

Don’t let your job cause you to neglect your mental health. Inquire about employee wellness programs and other options.

Having a mental disorder should not keep you from being able to take on the type of job you desire. Many people are able to manage mental health problems with medication and therapy in order to do the things they want, among them working in a certain field or taking on a specific job. You must remember, though, that you will need to take certain precautions to make sure that you feel comfortable, safe, and confident in your workplace in order to do your job adequately and not cause your condition to worsen.

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Coping with Stress

Work is one of the most stressful parts of any person’s life, and the stress caused in your workplace can negatively affect you, even if you do not have any specific mental health problems. For example, the Center for Disease Control states, “Job stress can be defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.” You can feel job stress only sometimes or you can feel it consistently. “Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.”

Stress in the workplace can be even more intense for someone with a mental disorder. It can also worsen an existing disorder or even be involved in the development of one. Many people also turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cope with stress at work, which sometimes leads to addiction. There are ways that you can cope with stress in the workplace in order to minimize its presence and keep it from affecting your mental health too intensely.

  • Find out if the company you work for has a wellness program and if stress management is a part of this. Many times, companies will help their employees by creating free programs like these where you can attend stress management meetings and therapy sessions.
  • If you believe your stress is coming from a certain relationship or department at work, consider whether or not the issues can be solved by talking about them. If they can’t, you may want to request a transfer.
  • Make sure you establish boundaries from work. If you feel that you are working constantly, you will be more likely to suffer from job stress.
  • Use the methods of meditation and mindfulness to try and minimize your stress. Even if you only have a few minutes before or during work each day, set your intention and try breathing exercises.
  • Consider your organizational approach to your work. If it is causing you stress, make some changes or suggest them to your supervisor.

Ask for Accommodations

While there are many ways to handle stress and other problems at work that take an extra toll on your mental health, you may need to ask for specific accommodations that allow you to do your job effectively if you are living with a mental disorder. The Americans with Disabilities Act does protect individuals with mental illnesses, and it is important that you understand your rights when it comes to your work environment. According to the Office on Women’s Health, “The ADA makes it against the law to discriminate against someone with a disability at work. The law also says that employers make ‘reasonable accommodations’ for qualified people with a disability.”

If this describes you and you are in a situation where you feel comfortable to, discuss your mental health issues with your supervisor and what accommodations you may need to better perform the tasks allotted to you. It may be especially necessary to do so if you realize that you are encountering problems in doing your everyday job. In some cases, you will be asked to meet with an individual from the Human Resources Department in your company, but once you and your employer are able to come to an agreement about your personal accommodations, dealing with your mental health problems in the workplace can become much easier.

Helping Coworkers Understand Your Needs

Depending on your comfort level, it may be beneficial for you to discuss your situation with your coworkers. It could help minimize some of the issues that may otherwise arise from your specific accommodations or allow you to feel that you do not have to hide who you are at work. However, it is completely up to you whether you want to share this information with the other individuals at your workplace.

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Choosing the Right Work Environment

Certain work environments are better for certain individuals, and the state of your mental health can reflect this. If you are in a situation that is not beneficial to you and your needs, it could be very problematic, and there are times where leaving your job may be necessary. When you are searching for the right environment, try to choose one that prides itself on catering to the wellness and comfort of its employees. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Prevention activities help create communities in which people have an improved quality of life that includes healthier environments at work and school,” and companies that offer programs like these show they are interested in helping and accommodating you while you work there.

You must remember that your mental health is an absolute priority, and if you already have specific conditions or issues associated with your psychological wellbeing, you will need to be more aware of them in the workplace. By doing so, and choosing an employer who does so, you can more effectively cope with these issues while still producing quality work.

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