Mental Health and Workplace Safety

It is Mental Health Week in Canada, so there is no better time to shine a light on something many Canadians struggle with: mental health at the workplace, and in particular, how it affects our safety and well-being. When it comes to managing our mental health in a workplace setting, there are several factors at play, chief among them is the awareness of how we are thinking and feeling while on the job, and how those thoughts and feelings can impact our safety and productivity. 

According to Stats Canada, about 1 in 4 adults will struggle at times to maintain their mental health.  Many who struggle also bring those issues with them to the workplace. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common issues individuals deal with, and both can seriously inhibit job performance, attendance, and safety. Self-awareness is key to recognizing the symptoms of both depression and anxiety, so it is crucial to be aware of the signs and symptoms. For depression, if you are feeling like you have less energy, or don’t feel the same happiness you used to when doing activities you enjoy, you could be in a depressed state. Or if you feel tense, stressed, and worried on a consistent basis, and the “what-ifs” are robbing you of sleep, that sounds like you could be experiencing anxiety. It is only once you start recognizing these symptoms that you can start to make changes and discuss them with people in your life, whether it is trusted friends, family, or a mental health professional. 

Anxiety can rob you of your sense of security, concentration and leave you feeling restless or tense. Depression is like a cloud around your head, causing inattention. Both can lead to dangerous situations at work where accidents can occur, from spilling hot coffee on yourself to forgetting to switch off heavy machinery. Mental health and physical safety are inextricably linked, so it is important to learn how you can more effectively separate the two, which is called healthy compartmentalization. When you are struggling with anxiety or depression, what would normally be manageable stressors become very difficult to work through or put into  perspective. The resulting stress could then start to compound, leading you to feel overwhelmed and helpless. It is helpful to focus on one thing at a time if you’re feeling this way, so try sitting down at home and devoting your attention to one single source of stress instead of spreading your attention across all of them. Do this for 10 minute durations, and you may be able to work through some of them since you are giving them your undivided attention. 

Seeking out help with your mental health is a sign of strength, not a weakness. If you find yourself struggling, particularly if that struggle is causing a higher risk to yourself or others at the workplace, you owe it to yourself to reach out for help. You can talk to a counsellor through Walmsley EFAP. Our services are confidential and free for you to use. 

Robert Baker, RCC
Walmsley EFAP