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Mental Health in the Workplace: Strategies for Resilience

In the diverse and dynamic workplace environment of New Zealand, mental health concerns are not confined to a single demographic. Migrants, like all employees, face unique challenges that can affect their mental well-being.

Through this article, I aim to explore practical strategies for resilience and the support available help you, your colleagues, and the migrant community thrive in the workplace.

1. Recognizing Mental Health Challenges:

It all starts with recognizing the signs of mental health challenges in providing support and assistance to those who may be struggling. It involves being attentive to behavioural changes, emotional signals, and physical symptoms that may indicate distress. Signs can vary widely, from social withdrawal and excessive stress to changes in sleep patterns or mood swings. The key is to approach these signs with empathy and an open heart, creating a safe space for individuals to open up and seek help when needed. By being vigilant and understanding, we can help individuals navigate their mental health challenges with care and support.

Example: You notice your co-worker, Maria, who recently migrated to New Zealand, has become increasingly withdrawn. She often misses deadlines, and her performance has taken a nosedive. One day, you find her in the break room, looking overwhelmed. This could be a sign of mental health issues.

1. Building a Supportive Workplace Culture:

If you are a Manager / Supervisor, then creating a workplace where mental health is a priority is essential. Building a supportive workplace culture is a collaborative effort that fosters mental well-being among employees. It involves encouraging open conversations about mental health, where colleagues feel safe to share their concerns without fear of stigma or discrimination. By setting the example through transparent discussions, leaders can create an environment that values mental health as much as physical health. A supportive workplace culture not only promotes resilience but also enhances overall job satisfaction, productivity, and employee retention, benefiting everyone in the organization.

Example: Your supervisor, James, initiates a team meeting to discuss his own mental health journey and the importance of seeking help. This transparency sets a precedent for the team, encouraging others to share their concerns and reduce the stigma around mental health.

2. Stress Management:

Stress management is a vital skill for navigating the challenges of daily life, including those faced by migrants in a new environment. Migrants often face added stressors like adjusting to a new culture and work environment. It encompasses techniques like mindfulness, deep breathing, and effective time management to help individuals cope with stress in a healthy way. In practice, stress management can mean taking short breaks during the workday to refocus, practicing relaxation exercises, or setting clear boundaries between work and personal life. By learning and applying stress management strategies, individuals, including migrants, can regain control, reduce anxiety, and improve their overall mental well-being. Share stress management techniques, such as mindfulness, deep breathing, and time management, to help colleagues and migrants cope effectively.

Example: Consider a situation where your friend, Raj has been struggling to cope. He has been advised to practice mindfulness during his lunch break. You recommend a simple daily exercise where he takes 5 minutes to breathe deeply and a brisk 10-minute walk, re-centering himself in the midst of a hectic workday.

3. Work-Life Balance:

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential, especially for migrants adjusting to a new environment. Balancing work, family, and personal life is challenging, especially for migrants who may be far from their support networks. This balance involves setting boundaries between work and personal life to ensure time for family, relaxation, and personal well-being. Establishing rules like no professional work after a certain hour or dedicating specific time to family and self-care can help individuals, including migrants, achieve this balance. A healthy work-life balance enhances overall happiness, reduces burnout, and ensures a more fulfilling life, both inside and outside the workplace.

Example: Huan implements a "no work emails after 7 pm" rule to ensure she prioritizes her family time. She communicates this boundary to her team, setting a healthy example for everyone.

Seeking Professional Help -

In some cases, professional help may be necessary. In some cases, professional help may be necessary. Let's say you have been friends with Emma for a while, and she's been facing severe depression. You sit down with her, offering support and strongly advise her to consult a mental health professional. Your encouragement is a crucial step toward her getting the help she needs.

In New Zealand, several support mechanisms are in place for mental health:

1. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs):

  • EAPs are a confidential and valuable resource offered by many employers in New Zealand.

  • They provide access to professional counsellors and therapists who can help employees with a wide range of mental health concerns, including stress, anxiety, depression, and personal issues.

  • EAP services are typically free for employees and can be accessed both in-person and through remote consultations.

  • These programs can assist in addressing personal or workplace-related stressors, and they often offer a designated helpline or contact point for employees to access support quickly.

2. Mental Health First Aid Training:

  • Mental Health First Aid Training is a program designed to equip individuals, including colleagues and migrants, with the skills and knowledge to provide initial assistance to someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

  • These courses cover a range of mental health topics, including recognizing signs of distress, offering support, and connecting individuals to appropriate professional help.

  • Training is typically conducted by certified instructors and is available in various formats, including in-person and online.

  • Encouraging colleagues and migrants to undergo this training can significantly boost mental health awareness and support within your workplace and community.

3. Mental Health Foundation:

  • The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand is a leading organization dedicated to promoting mental health awareness and providing support and resources for individuals and workplaces.

  • Their website offers a wealth of information, including articles, toolkits, and guides on various mental health topics.

  • The foundation conducts workshops and training programs aimed at raising awareness and providing practical tools for improving mental health in the workplace.

  • They are an excellent resource for both individuals seeking information and organizations looking to implement mental health initiatives.

What can YOU do -

Supporting people with mental health issues requires a compassionate and understanding approach. Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Be a Good Listener: Sometimes, all someone needs is someone to listen without judgment. Encourage them to share their feelings and thoughts and provide your full attention.

  2. Educate Yourself: Learn about common mental health conditions, their symptoms, and treatment options. This knowledge will help you better understand what the person may be going through.

  3. Destigmatize Mental Health: Avoid using derogatory language or perpetuating stereotypes about mental health. Be an advocate for mental health awareness and open discussions.

  4. Respect Boundaries: Understand that sometimes individuals may need space or may not want to talk about their mental health. Respect their boundaries and don't push them into conversations they're not ready for.

  5. Encourage Professional Help: If you suspect someone is struggling with a severe mental health issue, encourage them to seek professional help. Offer to help them find a therapist, counsellor, or mental health support group.

  6. Seek Your Own Support: Supporting someone with mental health issues can be emotionally challenging. Don't hesitate to seek your own support through friends, family, or support groups to ensure you are mentally well-equipped to assist others.


About the Author

Dr. Sheerali Arya holds over 17 years of experience in the fields of research, education, training, admin, and operations. She holds a Ph.D. in Management and is currently working as a Senior Tutor at University of Waikato College, NZ. She is a Certified New Zealand Mental Health First Aider.



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