As I ask Alexa to turn on the office lights, I find myself thinking about how revolutionary technology is. It came and opened a thousand doors, increasing the speed of life, breaking down physical barriers, and even bringing us closer to other people, even when the best – and the only – remedy is to distance ourselves from one another.
When we speak about mental health, however, in addition to life accelerated by technology and a lifestyle and culture very much guided by it, we must consider all the uncertainties and challenges of living in an increasingly complex world. It is no small feat, no.
The Covid-19 pandemic is an example of the issues that lie ahead, after all it brought up fears that many people had not yet felt with such intensity, such as the feeling of being vulnerable almost all of the time, social isolation and the emotional battles that it entails, the restrictions in our freedom to come and go as we please, and the ubiquitous insecurity generated by the instability of the economy.
More than ever, we need to learn to deal with an environment of stress and complex challenges. If in the “normal” we knew the mental health of the 21st century community was already in the spotlight, in the “new normal” then, we cannot begin to even fathom it.
Some of the data released by WHO calls attention to mental health. More than 90% of suicide cases are linked to mental disorders and could be prevented, if the causes were treated correctly. And WHO has reinforced the following: the impact of the pandemic makes all of this even more worrysome.
Taking advantage of the discussions around Brazil’s “yellow September” (suicide prevention) campaign, I would like to share some reflections. What can we do about it, since work is the activity that occupies most of people’s productive time? Are we speaking up and doing enough, considering that mental illnesses are among the top three causes of absence from work in our country, according to our Ministry of Health?
I believe that the first step is to recognize the main risks that threaten mental health and act on them. We are referring to factors such as sudden social changes (like the ones we are living in!), stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, human rights violations, and even the quality in the alignment between employees and business strategy, and the capacity of an organization to evolve and connect with your time.
Mental health is a serious matter; it is necessary to lose the fear and the prejudice (including as a society) of speaking about it. In the work environment, it is important to keep listening actively, to put the issue on the agenda, to demystify mental illness, in addition to working continuously to promote a healthy environment, always remembering that health is not merely the absence of illness, but rather a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being.
Therefore, I extend an invitation to you: how about we share best practices and ideas on the subject? In your work environment, what are the actions that are contributing to the creation or maintenance of a healthy environment? What have you learned about the current scenario from the point of view of mental health? What can we do for ourselves? Together – and speaking about it – we can go further.