Mental Health Time Off: Why You Need to Go Back to Work
Mental health concerns can significantly affect your corporate wellness, having an impact on your job performance and attendance, as well as your wellbeing in general. This may cause you to lose your job, while not having a job at all can make mental health problems worse. According to Kristin Tinker (PGCPPP, PGDPsyc, BSc, BCom), Manager of Rehabilitation Services at Resilia, Research supports the fact that employment is generally the most important means of obtaining adequate economic resources, which are essential for wellbeing and participation in today’s society; work is central to individual identity, social roles and social status.’ At the other end of that scale, there has been a strong link shown between worklessness and poor mental and physical health.
Tinker explains, ‘Overall, there is a growing awareness that long-term work absence, work disability and unemployment are harmful to mental health and wellbeing. The Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM) and the RoyalAustralasianCollege of Physicians (RACP) recently released a Consensus Statement on the Health Benefits of Work. They identified that work, in general, is good for health and wellbeing and long term work absence, work disability and unemployment have, in general, a negative impact on health and wellbeing.’ It is a well-documented fact that not having a job comes with significant financial pressures, and strains your family and relationships.
‘Research has shown that being out of the workforce for an extended period can lead to an increase in mental health difficulties, as well as physical health issues,’ Tinker points out. ‘Physical health issues caused by being out of the workforce include an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Finally, being out of the workforce has been shown to play a significant part in establishing long-term patterns of unhealthy behaviour, such as lack of exercise and increased drinking and smoking. Therefore, the sooner an injured worker is able to return to work, the less likely further difficulties will arise.’
If you have left work due to a psychological injury, you are less likely to return to work than those who leave due to a physical injury. However, there is a strong correlation between returning early to work and mental health. Tinker adds, ‘Work absence perpetuates itself; the longer someone is off work, the less likely it will be that they will return to work.’ You should go back to work as soon as possible, not only for financial reasons, but for your wellbeing. Once a health professional gives you the go-ahead, you should return to work for many reasons. Returning to work as soon as possible:
- offers therapeutic benefits
- helps to promote recovery and rehabilitation
- leads to better health outcomes
- minimises the harmful physical, mental and social effects of long-term sickness absence
- reduces your risk of long-term incapacity
- promotes full participation in society, independence and human rights
- reduces poverty
- improves your quality of life and wellbeing
So what’s getting in the way of you returning to work? Tinker details, ‘Research has identified that there are a number of barriers that may exist that can prevent a person from returning to work and treatment needs to specifically target these issues. Where flags are identified, communicated to stakeholders and actively managed, return to work prospects are improved. Identifying and being aware of the specific flags relevant to an individual can assist in treatment and referral options.’ So, if you’ve had to take time off work due to mental health concerns, speak to your GP and employer about potential barriers to your returning.