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Discussing mental health in the workplace: Not the common water-cooler talk

Posted on 01-18-2016 Posted in Health and Wellness, Mental Health - 0 Comments

When it comes to the work week, people may use the words, mundane, repetitive or boring – while others identify hectic, exhausting, stressful and impossible with their job schedule. The workplace can be a jungle of stress for some and like watching paint dry for others; mental health can be strained in both instances.

More common than people believe

The stigma on mental illness being an impossible and unbearable situation, still controls much of society’s perspective. In reality, people struggling with mental illness can lead successful lives with treatment and medication if needed.

The National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH, explains around 43 million American adults 18 years of age or older, were diagnosed with a mental illness in 2014. Mental illness branches from the environmental and internal components of one’s life; including work, relationships or genetics.

For full-time employees, most of one’s waking hours are at work; the professional climate, therefore, needs significant attention paid toward mental wellness.

Not only can workplace stress be intensified with someone who struggles with anxiety but other employees can develop anxiety or depression over time.

Anxiety is not a common conversation starter and an individual struggling with angst, may not want to bring it up at the water cooler. Fortunately, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, or ADAA, writes about dealing with anxiety in the workplace. In a survey led by the ADAA, participants with anxiety cited specific situations in the workplace as fuel to their anxiety. Including:

  • Dealing with problems
  • Setting and meeting deadlines
  • Maintaining personal relationships
  • Managing staff, participating in meetings and making presentations

Having a general anxiety disorder is not the same as having a little bit of anxiety from time to time. Anxiety or other mental disorder can get in the way of completing tasks at work and lead to complications with management.

A need for understanding

The supervisors and employees at work cannot help someone who does not speak up about struggling with anxiety – which is not always the easiest thing to do. Regardless, one should, “Speak up calmly and diplomatically if you have too much to handle,” since, “Your supervisor may not realize you’re overextended,” the ADAA explains.

For those who are worried about being treated poorly or fired for a mental illness in the workplace, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, covers the acts and laws to prevent those outcomes.

One federal law, known as the Americans with Disabilities Act, “Prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees with disabilities,” NAMI states. This law applies to employees who can display proof of a condition that, “If left untreated, interferes with daily or work activities such as concentrating, communicating or regulating emotions.” An employee must be able to complete the job regardless of any accommodations given by the employer, but show an improvement when given the accommodations.

The key for all of this to begin is to speak up about a mental illness or struggle with a human resources representative or inform a supervisor. It may be difficult to talk about the illness, but remaining silent will only increase the difficulty.

In situations, where the mental illness becomes too difficult to manage, an inpatient facility may be the better solution. The Sovereign Health Group has facilities in Pompano Beach and Fort Myers, Florida, offering personalized treatment for mental and behavioral health, addiction and dual diagnosis. Patients address all co-occurring issues through treatment and learn the skills necessary to begin a life of wellness after treatment. To learn more about our programs feel free to contact us via our 24/7 helpline.

Written by Nick Adams, Sovereign Health Group writer

For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at

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