March 12, 2009

Economy Hurting Workers Mental Health

New research shows that one in five U.S. workers say the recession is causing them mental health problems, by battling anxiety and fear over the potential loss of their jobs.

Among the 1,068 employed adults surveyed, 215 said the economic situation has had a negative impact on their mental health.  Another 259 workers said their on-the-job stress level has increase.  The survey was conducted online for employment agency Adecco USA from February 25-27.

"There's certainly been a pretty severe increase in stress, and stress is a precursor to anxiety and panic," said Dr. Elisha Goldstein, a Los Angeles-based psychologist who specializes in stress issues.

He said that workers are distracted also, worrying about keeping their jobs.

"Companies start to become less effective. It starts to become a downward spiral, where an economic recession starts to become more of an emotional and mental recession," Goldstein said.

Public relations executive and lecturer Terrie Williams said, with job losses growing, company coffers shrinking and budgets tight, it's no wonder workers' mental health is taking a hit.

"What's really difficult and very isolating about this experience is that people are walking around with that stuff inside of them. It's pretending that you're fine when you're really worried sick," said Williams, who suffered from depression and wrote about it in her book "Black Pain."

She suggests workers repeat the following mantra to themselves -- "Everybody else is losing their job, but I'm not that one. That's for somebody else. I'm not going to be that one."

Bernadette Kenny, chief career officer at Adecco USA, said, employees can handle workplace anxiety better if a company is blunt and honest about how it is faring and if managers are visible.

Mike Moore, Canadian motivational speaker, said for employers to be appreciative of employees.

"The thing I hear most is that nobody ever thanks us," he said. "People will walk over miles of razor blades in bare feet for you if they know you appreciate them and tell them."

Barbara Pachter, business etiquette expert, said that tempers can wear thin in a workplace filled with stressed-out, anxious employees.

"The important thing to remember when you are harassed or attacked by someone is not to react in a way you will regret later," she said.

"Though it may feel good to say, 'Well, what do you know, you idiot?' it's not going to build your credibility or accomplish anything," she said.