The sun’s rays in its shimmering splendour breaks open the walls of my slumber in which I begin to squint at the illuminated windows upon my waking. “Another day,” I would tell myself as I try to gradually redeem myself from sleep’s enticements, while laying there, ruminating about what the day might be like. For a few minutes, I remain reclined; thoughts swirl through my head as though anticipating another eventful day. Everything fills me to the brim: the sensations elicited by the flowing breeze, the smell of coffee in the morning, apparently gleeful environs supposed to perk up my mood. Yet I still lay there, pondering—thoughts, countless thoughts—swiftly running through patterns. Then, after a while, In the midst of placidity is the encroachment of sudden shifts within my mind, shifts that go from relaxed to perturbed. Suddenly, I become numb, my senses as though abruptly maimed by an uncanny force to invade the stability of my mind. Eventually I end up wanting to disappear or dissipate, this ending with a desperate cry for help. I have become triggered out of nowhere; and the most hapless of all is that, despite the desire to force myself to break free from the chaos through distracting myself, still nothing comes out of it. I have now become ill. Again. But then, horror of horrors, I need to work, even at the very onset of depression or mania, against my brain collapsing against a constant bombardment of thoughts that try to delimit me emotionally and physically.
And with thus, the question: how can I work if I am suffering like this?
The Mind Stretched to its Limits
There is no reason at all to say that the mind, in all its flexibility, can withstand a blitz of different triggers when ill. The workplace, as we can undoubtedly admit, consists of different stressors that range from mild to over the top (especially if one’s superiors are concerned). Now a mind suffering from mental illness can easily be affected by even the minutest of affairs while working. Not because the person suffering possesses oversensitivity but because the brain has chemical imbalances that only medication coupled with therapy can address. No one is to blame, then, when it comes to the point where they can no longer handle their duties: the mind has become exhausted; and if this happens, everything shall follow. Hence, work can be affected, performance dragged into the mire just because of something which, in some respects, is not fairly understood. They could be even more affected until productivity staggers in its pace. If this happens, would not someone dealing with a mental health crisis be more aggravated while beholding everything as they fall into pieces?
We Need Mental Health Days Off
In this light, it is therefore recommended that workplaces respect an employees’ decision to take time off out of mental health concerns, given the fact that mental health is equally as important as physical health. To bypass mental issues could lead to a more debilitating situation on the part of the employee as he or she might be even more incapacitated in the long run. This should be understood by heads of various workplaces, in as much as without mental stability, a person cannot work with his heart and mind set on a goal. Nonetheless, there is a debacle to this: many offices still stigmatize against those dealing with their mental health, condescendingly withholding from them the right to seek help when needed at a particular day or hour. Just because mental illness is basically “unseen”, many in today’s society see those troubled by it as purely weak-minded or just plain attention seekers; and as this notion extends to the workplace as well, the consequence is that employees who suffer from such issues tend to be ostracized and branded as unfit to work. The repercussions would be dire enough, as dignity has been stripped away from a person who tries very hard to endure the misfortune arising from such ostracism; and this is not at all telling of ethics, propriety, or fairness.
Mental Health Days Are Not Merely an Option
It is a given that each institution has its own policies when it comes to accepting and retaining employees; but it would be better that, in drafting Human Resource rules and regulations, there would be more leeway when it comes to mental health. I personally believe that mental health days are not a dismissive option that one should just pile away together with the non-essentials in life. It would help save lives and make people better in the workplace. Employers should not be haughty enough but instead be more compassionate when they realize that a subordinate is fighting both tooth and nail against the effects of bipolar disorder, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and the likes. This would then give more clarity to the workplace, inclusiveness as well, valuing humanism above all else.
It is high time. With the passage of the Mental Health Act in the Philippines, it is a fervent hope on my part that more and more people get to acknowledge the need to foster mental health awareness in all aspects. By doing so, one could save someone on the brink of despair, hence making life worth living for those who want to “get it over with.” Dealing with mental health is no joke; it is something that needs to be addressed with compassion and acceptance. And the workplace is not, at all, an exception.