It's Everyone's Job
If your team's well-being was not in your job description yesterday, I encourage you add it today. It doesn't matter if you're a team leader, a senior executive or owner of the company, it's time for every leader in the organization to make improving workplace well-being a priority. (Well-being is about thriving in all areas of your life...career, social, financial, physical, and community. It's not just the absence of illness.)
According to the Gallup Organization, "66% of people are doing well in at least one of these areas, just 7% are thriving in all five. If we're struggling in any one of these domains, as most of us are, it damages our well-being and wears on our daily life. When we strengthen our well-being in any of these areas, we will have better days, months and decades. When those factors are fully realized, people thrive...and so do businesses."
Over the last three weeks, I've read a couple books on well-being, reviewed research from thought leaders and had conversations with several leaders who shared stories of employees experiencing anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.
Everyone agrees too many people in our workplaces, families and communities are dealing with chronic stress and high rates of depression. The leaders I've talked with also feel a sense of urgency to help individuals become healthier, happier and more successful in all areas of their life.
While the Employee Assistance Programs are a valuable resource for anyone who is willing to seek help, it's up to us to identify those who are suffering in silence.
The Sad Sound of Silence
Just last week I attended the funeral of a 52-year old man who took his own life. He was a younger brother of one of my friends. When talking to the people I knew at the service, I heard the same comment from everyone..."I didn't know he was having problems." Many of his old friends admitted to communicating with him on Facebook, but they didn't spend time face-to-face.
A couple days ago I had a meaningful conversation with someone I've known for 18 years and he shared that he was so depressed nine months ago that he came close to ending his life three different times, and I didn't have a clue he was suffering. He revealed he spent a lot of time alone and chose to be isolated from his friends during his darkest days. Fortunately, he had the courage to ask for help and started seeing a good therapist. He's doing much better now.
I'm sure you know people who are struggling with depression. The World Health Organization says depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. More than 40 million people in the U.S. are living with this illness and only 36.9% of those suffering seek treatment. It's really sad to think so many of our co-workers, clients, family, and friends are dealing with mental health issues and not getting the help they need to improve the quality of their life.
The epidemic of depression impacts all five generations of men and women in the workforce today. However, our youth are affected the most. The second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10-34 is suicide.
Are You Ready to Help?
If someone asked for your help, I'll bet you would say 'yes' immediately and do whatever you could to be supportive. However, how many of you would be as quick to say 'yes' if someone asked if you needed help?
A year ago I wrote an article called "Can You Say It?" I tried to encourage leaders in all industries to ask for help. Here is an excerpt from that message:
Can you say...I need help?
Unfortunately, I think most leaders are better at helping than being helped. It feels good to be the one who reaches down to help someone up. Sure, we get exhausted from time to time. It takes a lot of energy being "the one" who gets the job done; but in our society, we mistakenly think the only hero is the one who does the rescuing.
I believe the people who ask for help when dealing with a crisis or challenging goal are also acting heroically and should be admired for their courage.
No matter what you're going through right now or what you may have to deal with tomorrow, learning to ask for help is essential to your health, happiness, well-being, and productivity.
Your relationships with the most important people in your world will also improve dramatically when you develop the habit of humbly asking for someone's help.
Early Warning Signs
One of the best ways to improve the well-being of people in your workplace, family or community is to be a role model for asking for help...early and often. However, this is a very difficult habit to develop because when you're busy putting out big fires for your clients or family, you fail to notice the early warning signs of a problem in your own life.
If you want or need to get better at asking for help, this simple exercise will provide some assistance.
Take a few minutes today to slow down and reflect on these 10 questions:
Are you eating or sleeping too much or too little?
Are you spending more time alone or less time doing activities you used to enjoy?
Have you had some feelings of helplessness or hopelessness?
Are you smoking, drinking or using drugs to feel better?
Have you felt unusually apathetic, confused or forgetful?
Have you been angry, upset, worried, or scared?
Have you yelled or fought with a co-worker, family member, friend, or stranger?
Do you have mood swings that cause problems in relationships or lack of engagement at work?
Have you had thoughts of harming yourself?
Are you having problems performing routine daily tasks?
If you answer 'yes' to any of these questions, call a friend or colleague you trust and set up a time to talk. Don't wait. The best time to start dealing with a problem is before the issue escalates.
Asking for help may make you feel uncomfortable and seem like an insignificant activity, but it may be one of the best things you can do for yourself and the person you ask for support.
If you answer 'no' to all the questions, consider taking another leader to lunch and be ready to listen when they need to be heard.