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How do you deal with employees who fail to acknowledge their need for help

Sahil, 28-year old, sincere, hard-working, and joyous individual had been finding it difficult to concentrate at work lately. He felt drowsy at work and skipped his meals as well. When his friends and colleagues invited him over for get-togethers or social events, he would avoid it. When his friend asked him, what was wrong, he mentioned that he had a break up and found it difficult to live with any purpose. His friend asked him to snap out of it. Sahil’s manager was also unhappy with his performance and asked him to stop being lazy. Sahil felt that no one understood him and he kept himself isolated. Sahil was eventually asked to resign due to lack of professionalism and multiple leaves without following required protocol. The company lost a sincere and hard-working employee and Sahil did not receive any professional help for his emotional distress.

Help is not always invited especially when it comes with judgment and apathy.To seek help is viewed as a sign of weakness, especially if that help comes in the form of counseling or mental health support. With changing times, a good number of employees stay away from home to seek career opportunities. Rapid globalization adds to the evolving times making it difficult for them to have steady emotional support. As the employees constantly work towards striking a perfect balance between personal and professional life, focus and efforts dwindle between meeting targets and commitments towards relationships. Lack of steady emotional support along with search for work-life balance amounts to great deal of stress, anxiety, and mood fluctuations.Following data illustrates the presence of depression and anxiety amongst corporate employees:

When there are clear indicators about stress affecting the mental well-being, employees sometimes hesitate to seek help. Before one understands how to deal with employees who fail to acknowledge their need for help, it is crucial to explore why employees fail to acknowledge their need for help.

3 reasons for which employees do not seek help

Mental Health seen as taboo: How would employees come forward when the topic of mental health is considered to be a taboo?Employees find it extremely difficult to admit that they are experiencing emotional distress because there is a stigma associated with it. Viewed as a sign of abnormality, it is acceptable to talk about physical ailments but not emotional distress. The triggers of emotional distress could come from marital conflict, losing a loved one or any other personal concern.But cultural norms dictate that it is not appropriate to speak of such concerns and their effects.As the data depicts, most triggers for suicidal behavior are personal concerns:

Seeking help is sign of weakness: One is expected to deal with stress on their own. To talk about sensitive emotional concerns is considered a sign of weakness in the society. This perception stems from an underlying fear of being exposed, being vulnerable. The underlying assumption is that people would ridicule you and laugh at your weakness. It is certainly puzzling to witness this assumptionin an interdependent society. After all, it takes an entire village to raise a child.The judgment, apathy, and fear become hurdles for employees, often pushing them towards drastic steps like suicide instead of seeking help.

Lack of awareness: But why is it that employees fail to acknowledge their need for help? Unlike physical ailments that has clear signs and symptoms, mental stress takes its toll stealthily. Most people are not aware of the impact of emotional distress and how to identify the signs. Finally if the employee overcomes the hurdles of fear and taboo, the biggest question is “where and how does one get help?” There are more myths present to misguide the employees. They might have heard of counseling process or psychiatric consultation but would not know how that helps in resolving emotional distress.

The right kind of help: How to provide it

Indeed it is challenging when one thinks of providing help to people in emotional distress and even more so for employees who hesitate to acknowledge their need for help.Counseling is often viewed as the last resort. Employees mention feeling defeated after trying everything and afraid of being judged by the counselor or psychologist. If one turns away from them especially when they need the help the most, it would confirm their apprehensions and doubts about seeking help for emotional distress. Here are 3 ways to deal with employees who hesitate to acknowledge that they need help:

Empathy: It requires immense courage to seek help for mental health issue, as the employees would be discussing their vulnerabilities and pain. Employees are discouraged and people continue to display apathy. They require a safe place to nurture themselves and feel heard rather than feeling pity and disheartened. Empathy plays a crucial role, as it assures the employees that someone is genuinely listening and willing to help them. Their pain and distress is neither diminished nor exaggerated; it is felt as it is.Empathy encourages the employees to seek help and resolve the emotional distress before it is too late.

Seeking support from loved ones:Employees tend to cope with adversities and challenges better when they receive support from their family members and loved ones, which is evident from the data presented below. It helps them feel that they are not alone and someone would catch them when they fall. Family members also take on the accountability to ensure that their loved one feels better. Support from family/friends is also a protective factor and encourages the employees to value their life.

Building awareness: Fear and apathy could easily evolve into a destructive mindset, which would further prevent employees from seeking help. In fact, different avenues such as work-life seminars, workshops, discussion forums, standardized assessments, and research articles could be used to educate employees about mental health and emotional distress. Awareness would help the employees to identify the signs of distress much earlier and seek help before it gets too late. Employers and workplace play a key role in ensuring that employees are aware of mental health issues and where they could seek help, which is possible by dissociating the employee from the mental health issue. To eliminate the stigma associated with mental health, employers would have to use empathy and compassion and not let mental health issues determine the client’s career trajectory.

Helping someone overcome emotional distress or mental health issues is indeed a challenging task. But it is important to know that help is available and seeking help is humane, humble, and courageous. If you think a friend, loved one, or a family member is under emotional distress or thinking about suicide, then speak up and seek professional help through a counselor or a psychologist.

This article is written by Archana Bisht, Director, 1to1Help

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