MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS & LEADERSHIP: The Stigma & The Stench
“Being able to be your true self is one of the strongest components of good mental health.” — Dr. Lauren Fogel Mersy
The stigma associated with mental health has created barriers and a stench so strong that those who need help the most are repelled by the smell and succumb to not seeking the support they so desperately need. So what do we do? Make a decision to take the lead. Authentic leadership is not a theory but a practice. In the current climate of COVID-19 and the heightened level of mental challenges, the demand for genuine leaders becomes even greater. When authentic leaders employ social intelligence they tend to have positive interaction and engagement with their teams and they're in tune with their feelings and are able to recognize signs of mental distress.
Leaders must help destroy barriers to seeking mental health support. It starts with changing and guiding the narrative beginning with self. Examine your own beliefs about mental health. Just like physical health, mental health is something we all have and requires regular care. We will get physical checkups to ensure nothing is wrong or to have our doctor run tests when we aren’t feeling well and the same is necessary for mental care. It’s vitally important to pay attention to our mental health. Some days we are mentally stronger than other days, however, the extended days and periods of feeling bad, lethargic, confused, and unfocused are the triggers we give attention to.
According to a recent SHRM (Society of Human Resources Management) study, “Navigating COVID-19 Impact of the Pandemic on Mental Health”, nearly 35% of employees (random sampling of 1099 US employees; a study conducted between April 15 and April 16, 2020) experienced symptoms of depression or depressive-related systems such as difficulties focusing, showing little interest or pleasure in anything, feelings of hopelessness, sadness, down, loneliness, anxiousness, and more. These numbers reflect an urgent concern that has to be addressed. Mental health awareness among stakeholders especially during this COVID-19 crisis requires special attention, otherwise, if left unchecked the quality of their work performance will decline and cause stress on the entire organization and the quality of their lives will decline that will create personal threats to their overall wellbeing.
Bear in mind when the U.S. went on lockdown and most companies shifted to an online work-from-home format, unprecedented levels of stress escalated. While remote working was encouraged as a means for protecting stakeholders and for containing the spread of COVID-19, the repercussions from this sudden change created great anxiety for many. From parents and children to husbands and wives learning how to share spaces that were never an issue before, then coping with a forced readjustment to living life with minimal options were stressors. Then for many, the learning of new technology that is now required in order to do your job added to the whirlwind of change causing many to experience overwhelm. The stress associated with technology, technostress, causes a negative psychological reaction. In an article, “The Relationship Between Technology Stress and Leadership Style: An Empirical Investigation,” Boyer-Davis, 2018, reported technostress cost the United States companies more than $300 billion per year attributable to lost productivity and increased absenteeism, workplace accidents, and employee turnover. A 2013 study showed technostress was the cause of over 275 million lost workdays each year. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), throughout the U.S., serious mental illness causes $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year and it’s already staggering to imagine what the costs will be in this year once the impact of the pandemic is taken into consideration.
Leaders are expected to not only manage their own mental state but to pay attention to the stakeholder's mental state as well. In 2017, women CEOs were reported to have 50% great mental health illnesses than their male counterparts, according to an NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) study. Of course the reporting is eschewed because women will also seek mental health services at a higher rate than men. Even as it pertains to addressing mental health issues, there is a gap and often it’s sending a message that men are stronger than women because they “don’t need help” which is false and it feeds into the stench of stigmas. Dr. Glenise Harris-Wilson, CEO, Dr. Glenise Consulting, LLC, in a recent podcast episode of The Introverted Loudmouth, Seasoned Women Leaders, and Mental Health Awareness, listed several signs of mental health symptoms leaders should pay attention to in themselves and their teams. Here are a few she mentioned:
Isolation (outside of being quarantine)
Change in energy
Dr. Harris-Wilson also suggested ways to preserve good mental health. A few are:
Doing regular brain dumps- best to find someone to talk to so you can organize your thoughts
Keep in touch with feelings
Ask for HELP!
Mental health awareness and leadership are too exhaustive to cover in an article however the purpose was to continue to shed light on this imperative continuously faced by leaders. Poor mental health adversely affects company culture. It contributes to dysfunctional workplace behaviors causing organizational misalignment. Microaggression, especially towards African-American women, sexism, ageism, disabilities, biases, racism, and more may exist because of mental imbalances, but these societal disorders absolutely create distress in the workplace which eventually hurts the organization’s bottom line.
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Live 4 Change, LLC, a Christian-based, global strategic leadership development consultancy that brings transformational change in the lives of leaders and their organizations through equipping C-suite executives, managers, emerging and experienced leaders with the right tools, training, resources and advice. Our products and services are provided through my signature , Be 4 R.E.A.L. Leadership Series ™. R.E.A.L. is an acronym which stands for reliable, ethical, authentic, learner.
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Live 4 Change, LLC has digital products, workbooks, journals and I am the author of “When Purpose Exceeds Profits - a Foundational Development Guide for Emerging and Established Leaders. To learn more about Live 4 Change, LLC please go to www.live4changellc.com.
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