According to the World Health Organization, approximately 30% of worker absenteeism cases are related to depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders. Mental health and addiction are still viewed as an uncomfortable taboo within many organizations. Until companies begin to better understand and address this, they will be unable to create a truly healthy and inclusive workplace culture.
Working alongside my esteemed Prompta colleague, we have had the fortune of being able to develop and deliver customized workshops that are centred around mental health and employment legislation. Leaders and employees at all levels benefit from coaching and education about mental health, and they are opening up and gaining an understanding of the importance of being an active part of this challenging conversation. This is a path that leads toward eliminating this cultural taboo. It is truly gratifying to see individuals, teams and corporate cultures begin to change as a result of these workshops, and to know that one has professionally “hit the mark” on such a critically important topic.
The workshop addresses the 13 Factors of Psychological Health and Safety (PH&S) in the Workplace, created by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It also covers all of the provincial employment legislation that protects employees against violence, harassment, bullying and discrimination.
It is an interesting intersection in the employment world these days where mental health, employment legislation and an organization’s values converge.
One area of mental health that is emerging that is still full of stigma and that is not well understood – is addiction. Addiction is a chronic, neurobiologic disease that is heavily influenced by psychosocial and environmental factors. It is a disorder of the brain that develops pathway shifts. There is a rapid release of dopamine that floods the brain, creating the addictive ‘feel good’ sensation, releasing someone temporarily from anxiety or from pain. Repeated use of the drug of choice creates tolerance over time, and the need for more or stronger dosages deepens the addiction.
Individuals eventually feel unwell without the drug, and intense cravings develop. There is a shift from the person’s normative state to a compulsive state.
Addiction is a substance use disorder. It is not a moral failing. It is not a choice. It has been defined by the American Psychiatric Association as part of the Diagnostic and Substance Manual (DSM 4), as the 4 C’s: Craving; Loss of Control; Compulsive; use despite Consequences.
Substance use disorder can emerge as a result of chronic pain, genetic factors, from trauma, anxiety and other mental health disorders. There is not a cure, but with support, desire on the part of the individual, education and resources, substance abuse disorders can be effectively controlled, treated and managed.
It is critically important to de-stigmatize substance use disorders within the workplace and well beyond. Individuals who are dealing with this disorder are dealing with shame, guilt, anger and frustration. It is in the educating and learning about the available resources that support the workplace, managers and employees alike.
Further, addictive choices have been profoundly addressed through releasing trauma. Breakthroughs can occur by shifting inner traumas and releasing them. It is becoming increasingly evident that healing the subconscious is critically important to healing what the mind cannot logically heal. Mindfulness, mediation, self-partnering and self-compassion are some of the practices, which, if employed consistently, can help individuals to release traumas and dispel false beliefs.
Research has also yielded positive results related to the use of anti-craving medications, in conjunction with therapy, and counselling.
The full spectrum of mental health will become more important within our familial, social and work communities. To know is to understand. To understand is to feel compassion and empathy.