Let’s suppose three conditions exist:
- You’ve got problems.
- Your employer tells you to leave your personal problems at home.
- Your other half tells you to leave your work problems at work.
So you’re not to unburden yourself at home or the workplace. But the message society is broadcasting in 2019 is that talking about your problems, stresses and general mental health challenges is highly encouraged. So who will listen to you if the people in your daily life with whom you have the most contact apparently won’t?
This is the situation many people find themselves in, and with no one they know prepared to listen to them – really listen to them – most people end up carrying an increasingly large load each and every day. Every so often, that load becomes unbearable and then something happens where you shut down completely and take an extended medical leave of absence after experiencing a mental health crisis.
If you saw someone carrying a heavy load, you’d offer to help. The same person carrying too many problems on the other hand is harder for us to see.
If and when you do break down the Management team where you work might say they saw it coming. Well, if they saw this coming, what did they do to reach out and try to head it off before it developed into a full-blown crisis? Was there any offer of counselling? Did they sit down and try to get at your work-related or personal concerns as they impacted on your work production?
Now some employers do have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). These provide employees with access to confidential counselling services. For those that access this help, it’s a good opportunity to talk openly about the pressure you’re under in both your personal and professional life. You’re given a number of sessions to participate in; and you set the frequency of those talks. It’s just the two of you; you and your Counsellor.
WHAT you talk about is pretty open. Don’t expect however that this Counsellor will hear you out and then tell you what to do to fix your life. That might be nice to envision for some, but in reality, they listen, offer support and yes do make some suggestions on various strategies you might find helpful. They will share community resources if and when appropriate for you to take advantage of, but what they won’t do is lay out a plan for you to follow that solves all your issues. That after all, would be their plan for you, not your plan for you.
Okay so this sounds good if you work for an employer with this counselling service to access. But, for the many who don’t have such services paid for to access as part of their benefit plan, what’s a person to do?
Well, you can opt to pay for counselling services out of your wages. While you might feel this is money you can’t afford, consider that your own mental health is at stake and perhaps you can’t afford NOT to get the help you’re after. If you have a complete break down and have to quit or get fired, you still have all your issues to deal with – plus loss of income and loss of employment.
I think it’s fair to say there are a lot of people these days who are carrying worry, grief, anxiety, depression, bitterness, fear, hopelessness, low self-worth, phobias and pressure with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some have learned to hide it so well, you and I would be completely shocked if they ever shared what they carry. We’d likely say, “What?! You? No way. I don’t believe it. I’d never have guessed. But you don’t show any signs of that!”
Now we all experience stress and worry; it’s not confined to a few. For the majority of us, these worries and pressures are things we can work through using the skills we’ve acquired and practiced while resolving other challenges and similar situations in our past. As we work through problems and worries, we gain confidence in our ability to work things out, we might have learned to see the bigger picture; to know with great confidence that these problems will eventually pass and life will go on. This perspective and these growing skills help us manage the problems as they arise.
However, equally true is the fact that many people don’t have the knowledge of resources to draw on, they don’t have good role models in their lives helping them learn the skills to resolve problems. They may therefore fail to resolve their problems on a regular basis and all these failures just compound their problems because they repeat the same behaviours which result in the same problems arising. Tragic, sad and a vicious circle.
You may opt to talk things out with a trusted friend. Good for you if you have a friend you can in fact trust, and if that friend listens without jumping to the temptation to tell you what to do. Saying, “here’s what I’d do if I were you…” isn’t really helpful but it sure sounds like what you want to hear.
So how do you access counselling? Ask your employer if there’s help. Ask anyone who works in a community agency for a phone number of such services or use the internet to look up counselling services in your area.
To your good mental health.