Just the mention of mental illness can be difficult, especially in a working environment, where the shared mentality of performing to expectations can be daunting. However, this does not mean that one should avert their attention to the existence of mental illness.
Senior Medical Officer of Psychiatry Department from Suri Seri Begawan Hospital, Kuala Belait Dr Syed Masroor Ali in a recent talk focussing on the impact of stigma on people with mental health problems and also explored attitudes to mental health and mental illness.
He outlined the importance of mental well-being, especially for the working force, as it is not only one of the most valuable assets to the nation, but it can also affect a person’s proficiency at work and present a substantial cost to workplaces just like any health condition.
“In actively building resilience and nurturing mental well-being, workplaces that prioritise on mental well-being have better engagement, reduced absenteeism, higher productivity and competitiveness,” he explained.
He also outlined some of the various key actions that can be taken, that can have a major positive impact on the psychological and sociological of those affected by mental illness.
These are broken down into key words, one of which is ‘give’. “Give your time, your words, your presence; carrying out acts of kindness, whether small or large, can increase happiness, life satisfaction and general sense of well-being,” he said.
“Take notice: remembering the simple things that give you joy and paying more attention to the present moment helps to establish your thoughts and feelings as well as the world, which can boost mental well-being.”
This, he noted, can be as simple as reflecting on one’s experience which can help to appreciate what matters to oneself, to savour the moment, whether it is a simple activity such as walking, eating lunch or talking to friends.
Another key action he highlighted is to ‘Keep Learning’, and to explore new ideas in seeking out new experiences which not only have a positive impact on one’s mental well-being but also helps to sharpen one’s skills.
“Set yourself a challenge you will enjoy achieving, it can be trying something new or rediscover an old interest.” The last key action that he shared was to ‘Be Active’, which as it suggests, means getting physically active every day, which is great for the body and mind. It can improve mental well-being and lower rates of depression and anxiety. “Mental illnesses are common in all countries and can cause immense suffering. People affected by these disorders are often subjected to social isolation, poor quality of life, and increased mortality,” he explained.
As mental and behavioural disorders are the results of a complex interaction between biological, psychological, and social factors; it can be difficult to pinpoint the main cause, or rather multiple causes of mental illness, but there are signs that can help raise a red flag on one affected by mental illness.
“When considering that the person may have an emotional problem, some of the signs to look out for include difficulty in managing their usual day-to-day activities, increased tiredness or problems with sleep, frequent short-term sickness episodes, problems with colleagues, family or friends, tearfulness, headaches, loss of humour, mood swings, change in appetite, increase in smoking, and increased alcohol or drug consumption,” he continued.
Similarly, as mental illness is a result of complex interaction, physical symptoms such as change in appetite, bowel functions, loss of libido, sleep disturbance; can also be signals of depression and anxiety. Depression illness can often interfere with normal functioning and can cause pain and suffering not only to those who have such disorder, but also those who care for them, so looking out for signs of depression and anxiety is very important.
He also shared some signs of stress, which can stem from changes in one’s feelings such as moodiness, irritability or short-temper, feeling overwhelmed; changes to one’s thoughts such as memory problems, poor judgments, seeing only the negative; changes to one’s behaviour such as eating less, social withdrawal, procrastinating, use of alcohol; as well as physical changes such as chest pain, frequent colds, aches and pains. “If left untreated these symptoms of mental illness can have a negative impact on the affected individual; with severe cases leading to suicide, with those most at risk being those with previous attempts, underlying mental disorder, long-term physical condition or pain, and under extreme distress.”
With the signs, he finally concluded that in addition to the key actions taken; some of the preventative strategies, especially for those affected by mental illness, can be as simple as sharing your feelings and emotions with someone you trust, using healthy decision-making skills, using positive self-talk, managing stress with stress management skills, using effective communication skills, as well as knowing the signs and symptoms as mentioned previously.