Mental Health Awareness Month – Returning to Work in the New Normal
As we have learnt throughout the month, mental health is a complex interplay between biological, psychological, social and environmental factors. A key area of focus and impact on our mental health also includes the workplace.
We spend about one-third of our lives at work. So, it is safe to say that our work will have an effect on our mental health. While the workplace and associated stresses are often blamed for contributing to mental health concerns, having a fulfilling job can be good for your mental health and general wellbeing – giving one a sense of purpose, achievement and belonging.
Employers are increasing their focus on addressing the mental and emotional health of employees. Some companies offer Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs). These are valuable, preventative tools that can result in happier, healthy, motivated and more productive employees.
A number of South African organisations also offer companies assistance in improving mental health in the workplace:
- The South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMA) offers presentations and workshops on mental health in the workplace and can also assist companies in developing strategies to improve the mental health of employees
- The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) are also working to promote understanding and the minimise stigma of mental illness in the workplace.
Some medical aids recognise mental illness; offering prescribed minimum benefits (PMB) for mental healthcare and authorising treatment for mental illnesses in line with the scheme’s PMBs.
In addition to dealing with the normal workplace stresses, many employees find themselves returning to work after lockdown, with the added layer of concern around the safety and health in the workplace during the pandemic. Feelings of confusion, worry and apprehension can lead to anxiety in an environment that is already stressful.
This is completely normal, and there are healthy ways to manage these feelings of anxiety:
- Plan your return, speak to your manager if you need clarity on what to expect when you return as well as what will be expected of you.
- Do regular check-ins with yourself, with your team and colleagues and your manager.
- Be conscious of your anxiety, if you feel a wave coming on, try to breathe through it – breathe in for a count of three and out for a count of six.
- Remember we are all trying to find our way in these uncertain times, so try to be flexible – don’t expect everything to be back-to-normal – and be kind to others and yourself.
While much focus is placed on the complexity of mental health and mental illnesses, it is important to remember that mental illness is manageable. Reach out to your doctor (GP), healthcare practitioner or clinic. SADAG and the SA Federation of Mental Health (SAFMH) list a number of helplines and resources on their website.
Information shared in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. MediaHeads 360 publishes this content to help and empower mental health awareness. The information is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. MediaHeads 360 does not recommend, endorse or make any representation about the efficacy, appropriateness or suitability of the information shared. Always consult with a medical practitioner for matters relating to your physical and mental health.