Why Mental Health Has Become So Important

So let me pose the question which I have heard many times, in many workplaces from managers, union executives, and employees themselves!

How come mental health in the workplace is such a huge issue today when it was barely talked about 15 or even 10 years ago? Are employees softer or crazier than before? Is it an invention of the media? Etc.etc.

Clearly employees were absent from work 20 years ago for mental health problems but because of the societal stigma involved the real problem was often hidden. Occupational health doctors, nurses & senior human resource folks understood what stress leave or sleep disorders meant. So this meant depression often remained hidden. But over the years through education, research & understanding mental health is slowly & I mean slowly emerging from the shadows.

At the same time with globalization, outsourcing and worldwide competition organizations had to streamline & rationalize their structures. Do more with less! This has had a major impact on employees and as Duxburry’s Work Life Balance research shows salaried employees in general are working longer hours, doing more work & having poor work life balance
I actually start a workshop I do with the following question. Please put up your hand if you have more “free time” today then you did 10 years ago? OK so what percentage of hands do I get? I think you know the answer! For most employees our professional & personal lives are jam packed with tasks & the time demands just seem to continue to rise.

The best metaphor I can think of to describe the situation is to think of that clingy plastic wrap that we all use at home to cover leftover food. You get it on the bowl lip and stretch it tight. Ok so keep stretching it. Shortly a little rip will appear & as you continue to stretch the little rip; it turns into a large hole and all the food will either go bad or spill out of bowl. Not a pretty sight!

Computers, smart phones & blackberries never sleep nor ever shut down on their own unless of course they run out of power! Even these inanimate objects have to be “recharged” in some way. So human beings also have to find ways to be recharged. Interestingly with my own “crackberry” I’m at least daily checking the battery wondering if I should plug it in or not because for sure I don’t want it to run out of juice. I spend usually zero time everyday wondering if & how I should get recharged or if I’ll run out of juice!

It really starts to make me wonder if there is something wrong with this picture!


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