Q1 Campaign – Mental Health – self-care and how to be a good colleague

The last two years of pandemic have for many meant an extra burden on mental health and we have seen an increase in reported mental health problems. Through this post, Aker Care wants to normalize mental health issues and describe the difference between mental problems and mental illness. We want to highlight the two most common psychiatric diagnoses; anxiety and depression, and will give you some suggestions and advice for self-help and how you can support someone who is struggeling.

Mental health issues versus mental illness
Mental health challenges can affect all people, and it is common to distinguish between mental health issues and mental illness. Mental health issues are mental difficulties that are troublesome, but not to the extent that they meet the criteria required by medical diagnoses. Examples of such discomfort can be anxiety or insomnia and this is something most people occasionally will experience. Mental illness are used when certain diagnostic criteria are met.

What to look for?
Depression and anxiety are common mental health problems and often occur together. It can range from mild temporary discomfort to more serious discomfort. It can feel heavy, lonely and energy draining. There is good treatment for both depression and anxiety and it is also possible to prevent depression.

Symptoms of depression:
Reduced mood rent
Lack of interest
Decreased energy, fatigue
Concentration problems
Memory problems
Negative thoughts
Reduced self-esteem
Sleep disorders

Symptomps of anxiety:
Nervousness and restlessness
Feeling of fear
Excessive worry
Catastrophic thoughts
Palpitations, tremors and difficulty breathing during attack

Together, the sum of the symptoms will affect how well you function in everyday life.

Advice for self-help and peer support
How you think about yourself and the way you talk to yourself will be crucial to how you feel. Think through the following:
– Am I kind and caring to myself, or am I strict and critical?
– Do I feel ashamed, or have contempt towards myself?

You can practice strengthening your own self-compassion by starting to face yourself with more acceptance, interest and care.

If you experience fear and anxiety, it is easy to avoid what you fear in order to reduce the fear and feel in control. However, it is wise to expose yourself to what you fear. Practice being in uncomfortable situations, this will strengthen you in the long run.

We all have a limit of how much stress we can tolerate. If the stresses become too great, the body will send various signals, such as palpitations, insomnia and difficulty concentrating. These signals are important that you take seriously. However, not everyone knows the signals the body sends and continues to push, neglect, criticize or blame themselves. It may be that you need increased understanding, more acceptance, rest and maybe you need someone to talk to to get yourself back on track.

A good working environment can protect us from mental helath problems, and interaction with good colleagues can help strengthen our mental health. Research literature from STAMI shows that employees who report high social support experience less sleep disorders (Linton et al., 2015), and are less likely to experience mental exhaustion (Aronsson et al., 2017). On the other hand, it is found that a poor social climate in the workplace can contribute to increasing the risk factors for mental health issues (Theorell et al., 2015). If you suspect that someone around you is struggling, you can use some of the advice below to help a colleague. The most important thing is that you try to connect and show that you care.
– Ask: How are you?
– Have a friendly and curious attitude
– Take the time to listen
– Feel free to ask open-ended questions: “How are you?”
– Suggest doing something together

When self-help advice and peer support are not enough and you are still struggeling, you should seek professional health care and support