Mental Health in the working environment
Are young professionals protected against mental illnesses?
In these last years, the topics of mental illness and mental health have become more and more present in everyday life and discussions, especially when related to young people; they have inspired many organizations and institutions to pay a bigger attention on such a fragile aspect of the human nature, since they were promoted by official campaigns and by a growing relevance on social media. Agencies, small organizations and NGOs with different backgrounds started working on various levels to promote the topic and raise awareness on its impact on society, trying to reach as many people as possible.
The European Union has been developing policies and projects to face the issue in the most effective way and to grant support and help to its citizens. Of the many projects and initiatives created, one has already been developing enthusiasm this year: the Mental Health Policy Consortium. The project is the expansion and the evolution of a smaller section of the European initiative European Pillars of Social Rights, that seeks to establish and protect the basic rights of the EU citizens on a personal and on a professional level. The Consortium focuses on mental health and on the protection of the psychological wellbeing of people. It is based on three main points: equal opportunities and access to labor market; fair working conditions and adequate and sustainable social protection. The goal is to provide a complete assistance to people, trying to prevent mental illnesses, to treat them effectively and to provide support. It affirms that elements such as flexibility, equality, balance, support and security cannot be forgotten when defining and protecting mental health; these elements are of crucial importance, especially to those young professionals who just started their working experience. The project shows how effective this plan would be not just on a personal and mental level, but also on a more practical one: the working environment and the economy. In fact, as Emily Hewlett (Health Policy Analyst) and the OECD’s report Fit Mind, Fit Jobs say, the costs for untreated mental illnesses of a State may reach the 4% of the annual GDP. Their prevention and an adequate support against them could help boosting a country’s production, diminishing unemployment, having a positive impact on society and increasing the productivity. The project should reach its final version at the beginning of 2017, granting a complete and solid basis to promote and enhance mental health.
On a smaller level, organizations such as Project 668 and Brussels Interns NGO have collaborated in order to shed light on the consequences of the youth unemployment crisis in Europe and how to overcome mental health issues by being physically active.
In September 2015 they organized in Brussels the event Run for Employment, a 5 km relay run. Its aim was raising funds for the creation of an app that would help young people finding a job, a mentor or helping them setting up their own business. With this event, the two organizers, sponsors, runners, supporters and media partners highlighted the important correlation between work, personal balance, stress and mental health. They reminded the participants that a problematic work situation, uncertainties or a stressful period can seriously affect people’s psyche and induce depression or mental illnesses. Moreover, they underlined the importance of physical activity to prevent and overcome mental health issues.
Mental health is an element of great importance, on a personal level and in the working environment: protecting and supporting it through targeted initiatives could lead to a better working performance, to a more comfortable, stress-free working environment and to a positive personal growth. It is fundamental to recognize the impact our mental wellbeing has on our daily life, enhancing it and making it our main prerogative.
The decision taken by the EU of advocating for mental health and raising awareness on its role as a social right is a first step in the right direction.
It is inspiring to see that NGOs and organizations all around Europe create new programs and carry out activities to support mental health and to inform young people: an example is Aye Mind, that uses internet and social media to talk about mental issues and about the best way to refer to it, or IFOTES, that hosted a congress in July 2016 on how to help people in emotional or psychological distress.
It is necessary that young professionals understand that their wellbeing and their achievements are deeply related to their mental health and that they have the right to demand a higher support to their employers. At the same time, employers need to agree with it and offer preventive measures for mental health issues.
Both in everyday life and in the working sphere, emotional balance, equality and security are essential: it is our goal to protect and implement them, in order to reach success and self-realization.
by Laura Franceschin