We all have mental health and there is no health without mental health. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, I am presenting a series of articles covering a variety of issues around mental health to increase our knowledge of the subject in general. The first article answered the question “What is Mental Health?” and the second is “The Impact of Mental Ill-Health”. In this article, I am posing the question of when is a mental health problem a problem?
When is mental ill-health a problem?
A problem is not a problem until it’s a problem, is it? In a way, a mental illness could be compared to alcohol. Until the person is prepared to admit “Yes, I am an alcoholic,” or “Yes, I have a mental illness” the behaviors are not a problem (for the affected person at least).
Our mental health affects our behavior and the way we think and feel. So taking that one step further how would we know if our behavior, thoughts and feelings are on the side of ill health versus good health or somewhere in between? There are three pointers to bear in mind about the behavior (we may call it the symptoms):
- Persistent – the symptoms continue firmly and obstinately
- Pervasive – the symptoms are widespread, noticeable and entrenched; they affect every area of life (work, social and personal/family)
- Problematic – constitutes or represents a problem, they are having a negative impact on life (at work, socially and personally)
Failing to admit there is a problem for them self can result in the affected person being sectioned – forcibly admitted to hospital.
As an example we can all be affected by sadness, feeling down or numb for a short time and then get over it, get back to our normal happy self. But if the sadness becomes overwhelming and the numbness affects all areas of our life and lasts for more than a couple of weeks, that sadness and numbness are becoming a problem. The problem IS a problem.
From the individual point of view, it is definitely time to get a doctor’s appointment. Don’t leave it until like John in the previous article you suffer a nervous breakdown and can’t cope with it anymore. The HR people tell me it costs a company in excess of £30 000 when a middle manager like John is signed off due to mental ill-health.
Is there anything a company can do to decrease the cost of mental ill-health in the workplace? Yes, most definitely, through mental health first aid training.
If a company trains staff in mental health first aid skills (in much the same way as it has physical first aiders) then mental ill health can be recognized sooner and appropriate help sought before a break down occurs. Once recognized sooner the company can support the person through recovery. If the person can keep working (and let’s face it there is a limit to how much daytime TV anyone can watch!), even if with some concessions in terms of hours worked, or workload carried, then they will recover faster. In addition, the business does not lose the knowledge, skills and experience of the affected person and that person’s self- confidence is maintained at a high level. Now if that is not a win-win, what is? Getting mental health first aid skills into a company is a no-brainer really.
Please use the Contact form if you would like to know more about the courses available to introduce staff to mental health issues through awareness and first aid training.
The next article in this series will take a look at balancing the risk around mental health. We will then move on to briefly examine some of the symptoms of various mental illnesses in future articles.