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Home Special Reports Article State of Mind: Mental illness in the workplace

(WSAW) — Ask anyone with a mental illness like depression or anxiety, and they’ll tell you how much of a struggle it can be, especially since the symptoms don’t push the pause button the minute you walk out the door.

“Mental health will be with you day in and day out,” said Judy Lemke, a licensed professional counselor at Behavioral Health Clinic of Wausau. “There is no shame in saying I have a medical condition and I need help.”

The days that find you at work can sometimes be the hardest.

“Taking depression for example, oftentimes people are in a brain fog, and their thoughts are so heavy, so low. If you’re anxious, oftentimes you’re having ruminating thoughts that are just keeping you amped. You’re body’s reacting by being physically tense. Oftentimes you’re not breathing correctly. It’s pretty hard with those symptoms to be focused on what you’re supposed to be doing at your job,” Lemke added.

But she said the more mental illness is talked about, the more the stigma can be reduced.

“Just letting other people know that you may not be up to par, but there’s a reason for it, that you’re not just being a slacker or that you’re not just being lazy. I think that’s a misconception that often happens,” Lemke explained.

You can also find a comfort in knowing you’re not alone.

“If you look around your place of employment, and if you figure one in four of you are having the same issues, it makes it much more common, much more safe to say, ‘Hey, this is just a crappy day'”, she said.

Angela Bailey is the vice president of human resources at Church Mutual in Merrill. She said mental health is extremely important to the company, that does all it can to make sure its employees are being taken care of in all aspects of health and wellness.

“There’s counseling that’s available. There’s coaching that’s available,” Bailey said.

The services are available through an employee achievement program, that works like an employee assistance program. It also includes a 24-hour helpline and an opportunity to bring speakers to campus.

“It is activated by the employee, most the time reaching out and saying I would like assistance,” Bailey explained.

Even if you need a mental health day off from work, that sick time is there for you.

“If they need a day of rest, or a day of time off from work, they simply need to call into work, and let their supervisor know they won’t be in that day, and no questions asked. It’s OK. Take that time,” Bailey added.

Another way employees can take time for themselves in the middle of the day, is to enjoy the fitness center, nature trial, a pond, garden and reflection center, all located on site.

“It is used for people to come in when they need some time to perhaps get away, to self-reflect, to just have some quiet time,” said Bailey.

When it comes down to it, Bailey said the company wants employees to be themselves and be allowed to have open conversations in a safe space.

Lemke added that the help given to the employee works from both sides.

“It’s up to the employer to be aware of changes in an employee, but it’s also up to the employee to say ‘Hey, I need help.’ The more we talk, the more we educate, the more we educate the more common it becomes,” Lemke explained.

She shared some key ways to help yourself have a good mental health day at work. They include showing up on time and clean. She said if you present yourself well, you’ll feel better.

If you feel depression or anxiety creep in at work, Lemke advised to take some deep breaths, get some sunshine when possible. take a couple minutes to go for walk if you’re feeling agitated. and be sure to take your breaks every day.


Feb 26 2019

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