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Promoting Positive Mental Health In The Workplace

On World Mental Health Day (Oct 10), The Priory’s Dubai Wellbeing Centre highlights how Priory is helping companies in the UAE with the mental health of their workers.

In his day-to-day work as a Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director at Priory’s Dubai Wellbeing Centre, Dr Walid Abdul-Hamid treats many Dubai workers suffering from mental health problems like depression, stress and anxiety. The Wellbeing Centre, which opened in April this year, enables workers to access treatment for conditions including anxiety, stress and depression. It is open before and after work and at lunchtimes, so offers flexibility for all. The Centre also goes into firms and discusses how employers can enhance and improve the mental health and wellbeing of their staff.Many workers come from overseas and migration involves challenges associated with the new environment of the host country. Although living in a different country has many advantages, the different language, customs, food and weather, can all constitute a psychological and physical challenge to the expat.

Factors that are shown to increase such problems are work anxieties, worries about things back home, difficulty adjusting to the new culture, and financial difficulties. Some people might resort to unhealthy behaviour which may provide short- term relief, but will make the problem worse in the long run. The Priory’s expert team talks to companies about this and how they can help their staff.

How employees can improve their mental wellbeing

Many of the expats in the UAE are here for work and it is very important for them to maintain a good work-life balance. If work becomes stressful, a work-life balance helps us to cushion that stress with pleasurable activities, hobbies and quality time with family and friends.

Talking about your problems with people whom you trust is a scientifically proven solution to problems, including psychological problems. However, if the problem continues despite trying to maintain a good work-life balance, and if it starts to affect work and social functioning, then the expat should not shy away from seeking help from mental health professionals; Priory is here to help in such cases.

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The role of employers

The Priory runs workshops for staff – first aid for mental health if you like. Employers should show their employees that they understand the impact of mental ill health in the workplace and create a culture which promotes mental wellbeing. A healthy workplace is not one that is ‘laid back’ or stress free, but one in which the importance of managing stress is recognised and employees are supported.

Help your employees with a phased transition back to work

First and foremost, it’s vital that employers understand the potential impact of mental illness on their organisation. Between one and five and one in six people seek help for depression. There are important financial reasons for businesses to address it. Enabling their ‘workers’ teams’ to have an appropriate level of knowledge of mental illness, and the principles of rehabilitation, is a crucial starting point.

If you are off sick with mental ill health, you may be struggling with shame, and be anxious about how your colleagues and the organisation will react to you on your return. Having an empathic manager or HR professional on the other end of the phone when you are having your ‘check in’, or planning your return, can make a real difference and may expedite a successful return. Employers also need to educate their workforce on mental wellbeing and the early recognition of mental illness. Stress management workshops are a useful forum to raise these issues.

Removing the stigma

Companies need to be proactive in addressing the stigma associated with mental illness. Make sure mental health is included in workplace activities and health awareness days. Demonstrate to employees that individuals who have been off with mental illness can be successfully rehabilitated through phased returns and reasonable adjustments of duties just as would happen after a physical illness, and promote awareness of the psychological harm associated with unhealthy behaviours which many people find themselves reaching towards in the early stages of a depressive episode or anxiety disorder. We must not forget that mental illness is one of the biggest health concerns of our time, particularly for people of working age.

Mental illness affects many people; you never know who else might be suffering

It’s important to highlight how there has been considerable improvement over the last five years within companies and their attitudes towards mental health. Many organisations have come to the Priory for advice and the team is always happy to help. This is sometimes driven by real scientific evidence of the impact on the bottom line, rather than just merely altruism, but it is a win-win situation. An organisation which looks after the mental health of its employees will thrive. Those that are toxic for mental health will lose productivity and profit.

Those at risk

Anyone can suffer mental health problems. The centre in Dubai sees CEOs and receptionists. It can come with success as well as failure. Vulnerability is often inherited, but many people develop mental illness without any recognised vulnerability. Stress plus vulnerability can lead to illness. Learning to recognise and manage stress is a good protection.

The Priory is the world famous mental healthcare specialist, with around 100 healthcare sites in the UK. Apart from its chain of hospitals, it also has 10 high street Wellbeing Centres in the UK, which includes a newly opened Wellbeing Centre in Harley Street, in the heart of London’s prestigious medical district, and one overseas, here in Dubai’s Healthcare City. Currently, the Priory is working with large employers in Dubai to ensure the mental health and wellbeing of staff.

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