The Causes of Workplace Related Mental Illness

Is your organization causing workplace related mental illness?

You might be surprised by the answer. I recently read a report published by the UK Government about mental health conditions, work and the workplace. According to researchers they commissioned, the most common mental health problems—anxiety and depression—can be caused by work-related issues.

In my work as a coach, people often share with me that they consider their jobs to be a significant part of their lives, and not just for the obvious income-providing reason. Naturally, their lifestyles depend on a reliable source of funds. But the study of human behavior indicates that people need their employment for more than income, whether they consciously recognized it or not.

Our jobs provide us with purpose through opportunities of accomplishment. Employment, when experienced in a positive environment, offers the all-important sense of value. Working people look to their jobs to find self-esteem and satisfaction by being needed and accepted as competent. These are fundamental needs, and when they aren’t met, the spirit suffers. Prolonged periods of emotional neediness inflict significant damage, where the mind responds unfavorably with numerous effects.

The human spirit reacts to its surroundings. When the workplace treats people poorly (or they have the impression they are being treated poorly), they respond negatively. The mind jumps to their defense and justifies an altered line of behavior.

Employees sense poor treatment when they are disrespected. This can involve being ignored, ridiculed, subjectively judged, or discriminated against. An employee’s emotions manifest as anger, resentment, or rejection. Worse than disrespect is abuse. A person who is reprimanded needlessly, insulted, antagonized, or threatened will develop a sense of inferiority or hopelessness. They may feel targeted, worthless, insecure, or fearful.

Poor treatment, and the pressures of a dynamic and demanding environment, cause some to wonder if they can cope. Survival mode is a desperate place to be, causing people to worry about losing their job and life-sustaining income. This weight also impacts their families. People experiencing these kinds of emotions can’t work at peak productiveness. Mental illness debilitates cognition, memory, and responses. It demotivates, destabilizes, and may be manifested as anxiety if relief isn’t found.

Depression can also set in. Experts understand depression to be a prevalent issue in the workplace. They know this from surveys, since it is by and large an unspoken subject at the employee level. This is due to the difficulty of self-diagnosis and the unwillingness to be open about personal problems. The subject is still difficult to raise in many workplaces.

Mental health affects much more than a person’s work. It negatively affects their physical, family, and social health. This often worsens the mental health spiral.  Leaders who recognize the importance of mental health create an environment that supports it.

What do you think? What has been your experience with the causes of workplace related mental illness? I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.