Mental Health — Managing the Growing Chaos Among Us

Written by

Jim Anderson
Principal | Lighthouse Resource Group

Catherine Benavidez-Anderson
President & CEO | Injury Management Organization

Mental Health — Managing the Growing Chaos Among Us

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 4 years ago, employees have faced a daunting seismic shift in the workplace, amplifying the challenges of establishing the optimum balance of their professional and personal lives.  Wide-spread economic downturn, work force layoffs, cost of living inflation, inter-office social isolation because of offsite/remote working conditions, global wars, and natural disaster concerns are major contributing factors to the mounting stressors people face daily.  Left unchecked, the overarching increased feelings of helplessness and hopelessness have helped to promote a virtual breeding ground of mental chaos, discord, and uncertainty.

An article published by the UN Health Organization cited studies which showed that as many as 80 percent of Americans are struggling with various forms of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, grief, or isolation. The good news is the ever-increasing awareness of these issues and increased accessibility to beneficial support and services for those affected. Openly discussing, bringing clarity, and offering solutions to these issues can go a long way toward stemming the negative tide.

Many people have mental health concerns from time to time, but relatively few people develop a mental illness. What's the difference? A mental illness is a mental health condition that gets in the way of cognitive thinking, relating to others, and day-to-day lifestyle function.

Symptoms that could suggest the presence of a mental health issue:

  • excessive drinking, smoking, or using illicit drugs
  • hearing voices in your head that you can’t shut out or stop
  • being incapable of performing usual work related or normal day-to-day activities
  • feeling emotionally drained, lost, depressed, or hopeless
  • on a continual emotional rollercoaster combining sadness, anger, fear, confusion,
  • forgetfulness, and anxiety
  • excessive sleeping or repeated insomnia
  • distancing yourself from friends and favorite pastimes
  • having random thoughts of hurting other people or yourself
  • feeling exhausted even with sufficient sleep
  • excessively irritable, picking fights or arguing with family and friends
  • binge eating or not eating enough

Mental health issues are indiscriminate; it affects young and old, male and female, and individuals of every ethnic background, race, education level, and income level.  Unfortunately, the incidences of mental health occurrences have drastically increased in the workplace during the last few years. Among other things, depression affects more than 280 million people of all ages. Left untreated it can result in debilitating physical and mental health and even death, typically through suicide.  Dozens of mental illnesses have been identified and defined. They include depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, OCD, addictive behaviors and many more. Although mental illnesses are common, they vary in severity. About one in five American adults experience at least one mental illness each year and about one in 25 adults experience a serious mental illness (SMI) each year. A SMI can significantly reduce your ability to carry out daily life. Your mental health can be influenced by a variety of factors, including life events or even your genetics. 

There are several “home grown” strategies to assist you to develop and maintain good mental health, including:

  • maintaining a healthy diet (including omega-3 fatty acids)
  • getting sufficient sleep on a regular basis
  • staying physically active (walking, jogging, golfing, dancing, swimming, yoga, etc.)
  • staying socially active with trusted friends and family
  • maintaining a positive mental attitude
  • doing things for other people
  • developing and implementing effective coping skills to address your issues
  • seeking professional help if you believe it’s necessary
  • doing mental activities (working puzzles, playing card games, reading, etc.)
  • listening to calming music
  • using Mental Health First Aid, an online national public education course.

In addition to the human cost and toll on the quality of life, low mental health also comes with an enormous financial cost to employers.  According to recent Gallup studies, the cost of depression and anxiety disorders in the workplace nationwide is more than $210 billion annually.  That is a $30 billion increase since 2009.  Further, employees with fair and or poor mental health are estimated to have an average of 12 days unplanned absences annually, compared to 2.5 days for all other employees. This lost productivity is calculated at more than $47 billion annually. If you or someone you know is demonstrating any questionable symptoms or abnormal feelings, please reach out with compassion or direct them to professional health care consultation.  If unsure where to start, visit your primary care physician. They can assist with the initial diagnosis and refer you to a specialist if necessary. Isolation is typically not a healthy way to maintain a positive attitude or a healthy perspective on life.  Become an active member of a trusted T.E.A.M (Together Everyone Achieves More) of supportive communicators and valued friends.  Knowing that you are not alone (40 million Americans experience some form of mental illness each year) should encourage you to reach out and seek assistance from those who know enough and care enough to reach back to help you and those you love.

As an example, Injury Management Organization (IMO) has consistently prioritized workplace conditions that promote mental health. For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic and workplace shutdown, IMO implemented weekly virtual events to reduce the sense of isolation that can plague remote work. These events included presentations on activities and tools that increase positive attitudes and promote mental health. Employees were also encouraged to express and share their experiences in a trusting non-judgmental environment. Expressions of faith, strength, family were warmly received.

Even as pandemic pressures fade, IMO continues to foster a positive environment that helps employees face new challenges with renewed optimism and strength. As a result, IMO’s employees have rewarded the company with valuable loyalty and quality service to our injured employees, producing outcomes that speak for themselves.  In the 2022 Network Report Card, TDI reported that IMO had the highest return-to-work rate, satisfaction with care results, and mental functioning scores among all other claimants.

While stressors may be inevitable in the workplace and life, IMO has shown that organizational and personal strategies can help overcome mental challenges in the workplace.

As a managed care company, IMO also supports the advocacy-based model that encourages the complete-team approach to treating an injured worker as a whole person, a strategy which better equips patients for overcoming psychosocial barriers during their recovery.

In addition, IMO offers its mental health resources and expertise to its clients and provides an array of educational forums for first responders and the general work force it serves.  For more information on Mental Health Forums, please send your inquiry to info@injurymanagement.com

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