You might have noticed the badge, "Stand up for mental health." It is an American based campaign. Count me in! In Canada, a mental health event campaign culimates on June 6th. The "Not Myself Today campaign is "designed to educate and engage Canadians on the issues of mental health in the workplace throughout the month of May." Check out notmyselftoday.ca site and create your own "mood badge," start a conversation, or pledge your support to mental health.
Each day, I help clients with mental health issues return to work and that also includes military members who are transitioning to the civilian workforce. In one recent Tweets, I shared the results of an Ipsos Reid survey which revealed that "16 % of working Canadians feel job is a frequent or ongoing source of feelings of depression, anxiety or other mental health issues."
For some, living with a mental illness can be debilitating, however, many mental health service providers often concentrate on recovery as an achievable model . If you have started a new job, or are have had difficulty keeping one, because of a mental illness, we in the mental health field often recommend creating a self-care plan. Take a look at the four parts:
a. Early warning signs
Are you more sensitive than normal toward your coworkers’ behaviours or remarks, or your supervisor’s comments? Are you more emotionally charged at work?
b. triggers (events that may have led to the crisis or state of being out of control)
Pressing deadlines, unrelenting demands from customers, workers continuing to call in sick or not carry the load? Afterward, things to spiral out of control at work, until you have a meltdown or complete loss of control.
c. coping strategies
How do cope with panic attacks or severe bouts of depression? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Get support from a trustworthy coworker or mentor, or even your supervisor, and let him/her know you are struggling. Maybe there is a way to manage your workload easier. In the meantime, get the supports you need.
Replace “unhealthy coping strategies” with healthy coping strategies. The unhealthy strategies may include drug or alcohol abuse, gambling, etc. The unhealthy coping strategies, may be behavioural such as isolation and spending sprees; these can be tell tale signs that things are going awry.
Dealing with negative self-talk
As humans, we’re often our own worst critics. In the worst case scenario, it might involve someone who thinks he’s about to lose his job or believes that he cannot keep a job beyond a certain time. Beware of these self-defeating thoughts. Challenge the information in those thoughts. Is the information based on your opinion or perception, rather than facts? Is the information true 100% of the time? Consider replacing them with more productive thoughts. Try to engage in distracting activities or pushing away negative thoughts.
If you feel discouraged at work, focus on pleasant events to “reframe” your negative thoughts. Reframing techniques, which we often use in mental health, are designed to turn negative thoughts into a positive outlook sensations. Focus on events that give you pleasure, such as family gatherings, or memorable vacations. Make a mental note of accomplishments on the job, and then record them as milestones for the end of the year. To gather some ideas, check out www.mentalhealthworks.ca/wti/antidepressant_skills.
d. crisis planning
Who would you call in a crisis? What would you want your supports to be told or know?
Make use of 24/7 crisis lines. Map out a plan and share your crisis plan with your circle of care.
For best results, practice these strategies when you are not in a crisis or mentally “unfit” to develop and rafine these skills.
If you are dealing with mental llness in the workplace, I strongly recommend a valuable resource, the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, www.gwlcentreformentalhealth.ca. You'll see real people tell their stories in English and French. Well worth the time!
Melissa C. Martin
bilingual career/social media strategist
www.military2civilianemployment.com (under construction)
approved career expert, www.careerealism.com
Twitter: @ravingredhead and @melissacmartin