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Work And Mental Problems: A Potentially Dangerous Mix

| Articles | August 3, 2014

Work is bad for a person’s mental health. Okay, that may not be necessarily true. However, there are certain situations and events in the workplace that can stress a person’s mental health. These events can get even worse when the employee in question is already suffering from some sort of mental illness. It is not entirely uncommon for people with mild psychological disorders to hide their illness. This is because of the fear and anxiety they feel because of the possibility they might lose their job because of their problem. Mental health issues also tend to be misconceived as being easy to spot. This results in employers who ignore the subtle signs that their secretary has an anxiety disorder, or that the guy that works late on Fridays has dissociative identity disorder.

The core problem here lies in the misconceptions people have about mental health. Most people view having good mental health as being outgoing and being a good worker. The perception also includes traits like being socially extroverted and having good morale. However, these qualities may be present can also be present in someone who has a mental health condition. The popular misconception that those with compromised mental health are serial killers and psychopaths causes most people to simply go into denial that some of their employees have a problem. This denial may even extend to the employee in question, rendering him incapable of recognizing the problem and seeking appropriate treatment.

Another problem lies in the fact that people tend to think the problem will just “go away.” The common idea among employers and employees is that a problem with mental health will fade in time. However, mental illnesses are long-term problems that require treatment. They are not mood swings or emotional phases that will eventually give way to the person’s normal state of mind. This misconception can result in someone’s damaged mental health being effectively ignored for prolonged periods. This may result in the problem getting worse and affecting the person’s ability to work properly. In such cases, termination is prescribed to deal with the problem, rather than helping the employee get proper treatment.

The negative stigma of having a mental health disorder also makes it difficult for employees to admit to having them. Even if the employee is of such skill that she is irreplaceable, most companies would rather release her than continue to employ a “risk.” The desire to hold on to a job can result in much more than simply hiding one’s mental condition. For some cases, the fear and anxiety of losing a job can force them to attempt to ignore their problem or suppress it. Often, these situations end badly, with the problem simply getting worse over time. In some extreme cases, this sort of behavior has been linked to workplace violence. The links are not definitive, but the argument does carry some merit.

It does not help that most companies and bosses simply do not have the procedures in place to handle a worker that has some minor mental issues. Most companies will refuse to hire someone who is taking medication for a disorder or has had a history of mental illness. Bosses will either ignore the signs or will be unable to actually interpret them for what they are. Employees tend to actively deny that they have a problem, for fear of being terminated. These problems will continue until the negative stigma on mental illness is lifted and companies are better equipped to deal with these issues.

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