Health and Safety
Pin It

A proactive way to personal sustainability

By Dr. Helena Lass


A mentally healthy workplace is one that protects and promotes mental wellness.

For those experiencing stress, burnout and depression, workplaces can empower the power to seek help, not only benefitting the individual, but also the organization as a whole, as well as the wider community.

Fatigue, boredom, lack of engagement, absenteeism and presentism are all symptoms of internal mental malfunctioning. As any HR manager or team leader well knows, stress, burnout and depression can deeply affect team relationship dynamics and cause loss of potential revenue.

A global epidemic

In 2011 the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) commissioned a study to determine the number of people living with mental health problems and illness today, and the associated costs countrywide. The MHCC found that the economic cost to Canada was a massive $50 billion per year. This represented 2.8 per cent of Canada’s GDP in 2011 and is reported to have cost businesses more than $6 billion in lost productivity from absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover.

Mood Disorders Society Canada’s, “Mental Health in the Workplace” survey conducted in 2014 found that 21.4 per cent of Canada’s working population is currently experiencing a mental illness, with the youngest workers among the hardest hit. Twenty-eight per cent of people aged 20-29 experience a mental illness in any given year and that by the time a worker is 40 years old, he or she will have a 50 per cent chance of developing – or have already had – a mental illness. 

This is echoed over in the United Kingdom, where the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health 2016/17 report “Mental health at work: developing the business case,” found that the overall cost to British employers of stress, anxiety and depression amounted to £1,300 ($2,245) per employee per year, reflecting a significant 25.6 per cent rise on the same study conducted 10 years prior. Absenteeism increased to £395 ($682), up 17.9 per cent; presenteeism is now at £790 ($1,365), a 30.5 per cent increase; and staff turnover rose to £115 ($200), up some 21 per cent. The overall cost to the U.K. economy is a staggering £34.9 billion ($60.3 billion), a 34.7 per cent increase from £25.9 billion ($44.7 billion) in 2006/07. Going on these figures alone, it can be suggested that over the next ten years the trend will continue; with similar results in Canada. Can society really afford to ignore this problem?

New approach – proactive
mental wellness

Due to the nature of office work, the proportions of demand placed upon employees are approximately 10 per cent physical and 90 per cent mental. However, employees who do such mental work are rarely offered skills on how to protect their mental health properly.

There is a new proactive approach to mental health as something that everyone should actively strive towards. By shifting the focus from external reactive problem-solving approaches (the commonplace solutions of today, such as medical leave, prescription drugs and psychiatric therapy), towards a more proactive education on mental wellness, people who are mentally well learn new skills to prevent escalation of negative states into potential illness.

Intra-personal skills formulate the cornerstone of self-leadership

Early proactive intervention in the form of structured awareness-based intrapersonal skills education increases quality of life and decreases the chances of stress, burnout, depression, anxiety, etc., all of which have become epidemic in their proportions and have serious consequences on individuals, companies and economies alike.

The term intrapersonal – “intra” meaning inside – separates our inner functions and processes from the physiological functions of the body. Learning intrapersonal skills opens up other skills, much like learning to read; when we learn to read, many other skills and competencies can be developed. In this sense, intrapersonal skills form the foundation of any successful career, yet are lacking in workplaces and the wider business world due to their absence from current educational curriculum.

The need for a mental wellness gym

When mental wellness is considered in a proactive approach it can be likened to going to the gym. Workplaces therefore need “mental wellness gyms” where employees can train their knowledge-tools and practice directing their own inner functions whenever they need to.

There is strong and repeated evidence that intra-personal events have a direct effect on the function and structure of the brain, and therefore skills to direct these events can lead to changes in wiring and neurotransmitter activity in the human brain.

Until people are educated to exercise methods of conscious control over their emotional activation, it is only a matter of time before the destructive automatic emotional-mental complexes get triggered and initiate a cascade of problematic events, including irrational or destructive behaviour. When people learn and realise how their inner domain functions, a more sustainable way of handling, as well as preventing problems, can emerge.

Dr. Helena Lass is a psychiatrist specializing in mental wellness and founder of Wellness Orbit. 




Pin It