Feeling under pressure at work is common, but it is also serious and could lead to anxious and depressive feelings.
- Work intensity and pressures leading to depression and anxiety
- 14 per cent of mental health problems could be avoided if workers were less overwhelmed
- Black Dog Institute says it is a “wake-up call” for workplaces
That’s the conclusion from a large study by researchers at the Black Dog Institute.
Associate Professor Samuel Harvey found up to 14 per cent of common mental health problems could be avoided if people were less overwhelmed with work pressures.
“These findings serve as a wake-up call for the role workplace initiatives should play in our efforts to curb the rising costs of mental disorders,” he said.
An international team examined nearly 7,000 workers aged 45 then again at 50 years old, asking them about their abilities to make decisions at work, the intensity of their jobs and conflicting demands on their time.
The researchers took into account stress outside work such as divorce, financial problems and illness.
“The results suggest those people experiencing higher job demands, lower job control and more job strain were at greater odds of developing mental illness by age 50, regardless of sex or occupation,” he found.
Working through breaks, taking work home and having limited control on how you do your job can be particularly damaging to your mental health, according to workplace mental health experts Heads Up.
‘I had to change my lifestyle. I had to get out’
David Westgate used to work in an advertising agency, but now he works for himself as a consultant. (ABC News: Rebecca Armitage)
Twelve years ago, David Westgate was a high-powered executive at a global advertising firm, responsible for 20 employees and millions of dollars in client business.
But he was miserable.
“I remember sitting in a room waiting to meet with one of our clients, and I was just so depressed and thinking, ‘Why am I putting myself through this?’
“That’s when I got to the point where I didn’t care what it cost, I had to change my lifestyle. I had to get out.”
If you or anyone you know needs help:
Mr Westgate quit his job and went freelance — dramatically scaling back his work hours, spending more time with family and friends, and freeing himself of the pressure of being the boss.
“That flexibility allows me to know that I’m in control. If I don’t want to work for a month, I don’t have to,” he said.
He was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which explained a lifetime of mood swings he assumed everyone else experienced.
“I would never blame that job for causing my mental illness, but it certainly exacerbated it,” Mr Westgate said.
He believes no job is worth getting sick over, but he wishes he’d spoken up during those dark days at the ad agency.
“If I went through my career again, I’d try to find people I could confide in. I was trying to soldier through every working day like nothing was happening, and going home exhausted,” he said.
How to minimise work stress
Experts from the Australian Psychological Society say identifying early warning signs of work stress is important.
Resources for stress management:
“It is very helpful to be able to identify early warning signs in your body that tell you when you are getting stressed,” they said.
“These vary from person to person, but might include things like tensing your jaw, grinding your teeth, getting headaches, or feeling irritable and short tempered.”
If you know what the likely triggers are, you can aim to anticipate them and practise calming yourself down, or even find ways of removing the trigger.
Other good tips are to establish routines, spend time with people who care about you, notice your self-talk and practice relaxation.
The Black Dog Institute has developed a free online program called My Compass to help people manage their mental health and manage signs of depression and anxiety.