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Mental health and work: A strong relationship

June 25, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, many news-sites published findings from a survey of Canadian managers and frontline workers on mental health in the workplace. One statistic from this survey indicated that 12% of respondents said they were currently experiencing a mental health issue in the workplace, and another 32% said they had faced one in the past (click here for a news article). In other words, 44% of all workers have experienced a mental health issue (depression, anxiety, addiction, etc.) at some point in their professional life.

The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health estimates that the Canadian economy loses about $33 million per year in worker productivity due to employee mental health and addiction issues. By the year 2020, the World Health Organization predicts that depression will be the leading cause of workplace disability.

Relationship between Work and Mental Health

I remember taking a course in career counselling as a graduate student. Up until that course, I had never given any thought to the role that our job/career/occupation played in the maintenance of our emotional and mental health. Since then, however, the relationship between one’s career and mental health is an area I have explored in almost all of my initial meetings with clients.

As a result of that course, here is something that I regularly point out to my clients. There are exactly 168 hours in a week. For the average person, at least 50 of those hours (more for those with longer commutes) are spent on work. That’s almost one-third of our week. Over the course of several years, imagine what your mental and emotional health will be like if you end up spending one-third of your life doing something you dislike? The more we dislike our job, (i.e., the more we dislike one-third of our week), the more likely depression, addiction, anxiety, and stress will creep into our lives.

There’s an old adage that says, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Here’s to hoping the upcoming week provides you with a step towards discovering what it is that you love.

(Richard Amaral, Ph.D., is a registered psychologist with a private practice in mid-town Toronto. Click on the “About Me” tab above to find out more).

Some quotes on Work

Find a job you like and you add five days to every week. – Jackson Brown, Jr.

I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more luck I have. – Thomas Jefferson

Work is love made visible. – Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

Love and work…work and love, that’s all there is. – Sigmund Freud

It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity. – Mahatma Gandhi

I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. – Joseph Campbell

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