The “Well” in Wellness Programs
I am no expert on mental health matters, but there appears to be a need for us to sit up, take notice, and take action. The stressors of life are indeed taking a toll on many and without the appropriate resources and mechanisms in place to help people process their experiences in a wildly changing environment, we will be faced with a lot more abnormal behaviors.
My particular concern stems from stories related to the work environment, where inattention to the mental state of employees have been overlooked often with tragic end results. I want to submit as an evolving concept, that although organizations may not have mental health specialists on site, due consideration should be given to partnering with agencies that can provide the kinds of assistance needed by individuals who are going through life altering sometimes traumatic experiences. Many persons will argue that organizations are under no obligation to provide the kind of support I speak about, but I would caution them to re-think that position.
Here is what I believe. Human existence is a complex web of experiences impacted by different stimuli. How we react to each stimulus is dependent on the variables that are at play at that point. In addition, one person’s reaction to something traumatic is likely to differ from another’s. What accounts for the differences have been researched by social scientists, anthropologists, philosophers and other theoreticians, in an effort to give meaning to how we interact with others in given environments. As people’s mental state diminishes around us, we should be able to identify in a general sense when they may require assistance. The purpose is to not only pick up on the signs, but to get swiftly into action to stave off tragedy.
I recall a case involving a young man who in attending to his personal challenges, took to drinking. This was a way for him to cope. But as time progressed, the alcohol proved to be ineffective in calming his already heightened state of depression. A colleague who was the “go to person” (his friend), recognized that this young man needed professional help and in his capacity as a friend, he was no longer confident he could assist him. This friend was further pushed to act because of a conversation he had with the young man, where he demonstrated a distorted view of his life and threatened to end his pain.
His colleague and friend approached a leader in the organization and shared his fears. He was well aware of the fact that people snapped and this was likely to happen if he did not seek help. All that was needed was a trigger, and there was enough stimuli to push the young man beyond the edge. Fortunately, the enterprise had as part of its Wellness Program, an external partner who was a trained Counselor. The friend was able to convince the young man that he needed to get assistance to process what he was going through.
There are two lessons to learn here.
- Most persons have a “go to person” -an individual who is a confidant. A trusted friend, mentor or other such person. I have heard of persons also confiding in their pastors, medical practitioners 0r someone who inspires trust. That confidant will be more aware of the true nature of the person seeking help and will be quick to identify anomalous behaviors. Whether in or outside of the organization, that person represents a bridge between society and the individual whose mental state and capacity may be diminishing or diminished. You may ask, “what about those who are considered introverts or reclusive?” My response is that even introverts are capable of sending cries for help. The question is always grounded in whether we pay attention to the subtle manifestations of their attempts to get our attention.
- The second lesson is the need to have as part of any Organizational Wellness Program, a plan that is designed to address mental health challenges. It is recognized that all companies are not created equal and financial resources many be limited to the core business and nothing else. That however is no excuse as creative means can be found to get assistance for those who need it. There are state agencies as well an non-profit agencies that boast excellent coaching services. By partnering with facilities with trained and licensed professionals, the enterprise is signaling that it cares for all its employees. Wellness programs are not only geared towards health and wellness in the physical sense, but incorporates as well, programs geared towards the mental state of individuals.
We have to admit that not paying attention to our employees state of mind, may end in tragic circumstances. At times we need to be more aware of how our own behaviors contribute to the debilitating state of someone who has major stressors in his or her life. Examples are splashed across major papers and social media sites everyday. Isn’t it time to look at creative ways we could synergize our efforts to save lives?
Copyright Suzette Henry-Campbell 2013
Resources that may be of interest: