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Mental health in the workplace: The need for resilience as stress levels rise

The topic of mental health has never been more prominent in the national conversation. While awareness is welcomed, the question remains whether all of the discussion is truly beneficial. A new openness is great in theory, but are taboos really breaking down when it comes to people’s day-to-day lives? 

Vhi’s first in-depth report on workplace health and wellbeing focused on corporate Ireland’s mental health. It found that a high proportion of Ireland’s corporate employees are dealing with concerning levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Those under the age of 34, in particular, often lack the resilience to cope sufficiently. 

The report also found that, as stress levels rise across the nation, awareness isn’t necessarily prompting employees to seek help for their own issues.

Key findings

Only 39% of employees surveyed in the Vhi Health Insights report said they had sought such help. Rather than suggesting that the majority of people do not require professional assistance, half of people actually felt they had to hide stress to protect their career prospects. So what’s really going on in the minds that make up corporate Ireland?

Going beyond the mere anecdotal evidence that abounds in the public conversation, the actual scale of the life satisfaction problem was revealed to be significant.

Only 16% of people said they were extremely satisfied with their lives. At the other end of the scale, some 21% were in the high stress group – 3% reported being extremely stressed.The situation appears to be worsening, with nearly 1 in 3 of those surveyed reporting that they were more stressed than two years ago.

The workplace impact is that 1 in 3 people have considered changing jobs or careers due to stress, and 1 in 5 have missed work in the past year due to stress, anxiety or depression.

Resilience issues

Expert opinion in the report also raised concerns over a generation of young people who struggle to deal with what should be considered to be the normal pressures of daily life. The resilience of these younger employees emerged as a significant issue. Those under 34, as well as women and people in the tech sector, are consistently more concerned about the stress aspects of their lives.

Positive steps

Being able to work through our own problems, then, is extremely valuable.

Thankfully, this adaptive ability to handle normal daily pressures can be learned later in life if it is not part of childhood experience.

Setting goals can help your “bouncebackability”, as can breathing, cognitive and mindful exercises. Improving your physical resilience is also important, by placing an emphasis on better nutrition, exercise and getting sufficient quality sleep. 

The report also advised employers to offer more flexible options for employees to access health benefits – this was found to be something people particularly value. On foot of the recommendations, Vhi has developed a Resilience Programme for corporate Ireland. 

Specifically tailored to aid in developing key areas identified by the report, the expert-led programme tackles issues around self-perception, coping skills, motivation and the mental impact on your general health.

Find this piece helpful? Read more on mental health here.