When society talks about the qualities of business leaders some that come to mind are intelligence, strength, assertive, a thinker, driven, perhaps even a visionary. For many, this conjures the image of a person who can balance their professional and personal lives seamlessly with grace and dignity. This appearance of balance may also trickle down to the employees as well; if the boss is able to hold it down then the workers should also.
What these expectations and images can do to a person is cause stress, anxiety, and depression. The notion that someone should perform to near perfection, all the while also having an almost perfect personal life that leaves no area of it unattended, can be exhausting and lead to disastrous results. A Huffington Post article quotes the National Institute of Mental Health as saying, about 1 in 4 Americans suffers from a mental illness and nearly 30 percent of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. These numbers are sobering particularly when these disorders can be brought on by employment which puts workers’ mental health at risk and people are reluctant to discuss mental health disorders. So what can employers and employees do to mitigate and navigate this new and changing landscape?
A major step is simply to talk about how you are feeling with someone, in and outside of the job. The same Huffington Post article states business leaders can do a lot just by opening a conversation about mental health in the workplace” Meaning, if the leaders of business are willing to share their stories and listen to their workers, the mental health of all involved can begin to heal. Not all mental illness is fixed just with one or a few conversations, but it’s a beginning. Listening to someone’s struggles may make that person feel less alone, less stressed, and more comfortable about asking to take time off to address their health concerns. In turn, they may come back to work more productive and better prepared to tackle the demands of the job.
Getting help for mental health is like any other illness, it takes diagnosis, time, healing, compassion, and understanding. Unfortunately, mental health isn’t always looked upon with the same sincerity and patience as someone who has a more physically present illness such as cancer; however, if more people talk about their journeys with mental illness maybe that will help dissolve the reluctance to share and people will be willing to not only receive help but perhaps, more importantly, help those who need it.