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To the street for anxiety: when companies punish mental health problems

2022-10-02T10:37:02.313Z

Experts warn of the damage caused by the attitude of certain firms and the need to address work as the origin of these pathologies. "Either they believe you and consider you mentally weak or they don't believe you and you're a mug," denounces a worker



Lucía Prieto (35 years old) was a teacher well regarded by the concerted school that employed her in Fuenlabrada (Madrid).

“They counted on me for everything.

You could tell they were very happy."

After two courses, in 2021 she began to suffer episodes of anxiety, which she quickly identified because she had already experienced them in the past.

“I spent up to three nights in a row without sleeping, it was very hard.

I was taking days off to recover, but one day I couldn't take it anymore and they gave me a sick leave of about four months”, she explains.

When he returned to his position, everything changed: he had been working 24 teaching hours, close to a full teaching day, and they changed his contract to only six hours and distributed from Monday to Friday (“when they could concentrate them in two days without problem”, he denounces). .

He spoke with the union to which he was affiliated and they explained to him that in the face of such a marked reduction in hours, if the remuneration did not compensate him, he had the right to claim dismissal.

“I'm sure they wouldn't have done that to me if I hadn't put myself on anxiety leave.

With a colleague of hers, who had even been offered to be part of the teachers' cooperative that manages the center, she went beyond her: they fired her after a three-month leave due to anxiety and tried to camouflage her dismissal as objective dismissal.

The court, obviously, ended up giving him the reason and recognized that it had been an unfair dismissal, ”she adds.

To which they had even offered to be part of the teachers' cooperative that manages the center, they went further: they fired her after a three-month leave due to anxiety and tried to camouflage the dismissal as an objective dismissal.

The court, obviously, ended up giving him the reason and recognized that it had been an unfair dismissal, ”she adds.

To which they had even offered to be part of the teachers' cooperative that manages the center, they went further: they fired her after a three-month leave due to anxiety and tried to camouflage the dismissal as an objective dismissal.

The court, obviously, ended up giving him the reason and recognized that it had been an unfair dismissal, ”she adds.

The company of Laia San José (35 years old), a franchise of a large telephone company, did not even wait for her to be discharged to fire her: “I had so much pressure at work that I suffered an anxiety crisis while serving clients.

An ambulance even had to come to take me to the hospital.

That was in the morning.

Well, in the afternoon the boss was already calling me to ask me when he thought she was going to come back, they weren't even interested in how she found me.

A month later I received the notice of dismissal at home with retroactive effect, from the day I had the crisis.

Justice also agreed with him, as is customary before practices of this type.

Testimonials like these are not anecdotal.

A study in the United Kingdom in 2014 attributed 13% of work absences to anxiety problems.

But, despite the growing awareness of the importance of mental health, there are still companies that underestimate or doubt the veracity of these pathologies.

"It is something that continues to happen in many companies and that has a serious cost in the health of the worker," says José David Cuenca, a specialist in human resources at the Official College of Psychology of Western Andalusia.

“The stigma of

this one is still looking for a discharge

or

it will not be so bad

”.

That is exactly the perception Prieto had: “It's horrible.

Either they believe you and consider you mentally weak or they don't believe you and classify you as a mug.

There is no middle ground, it is not seen as a disease that you can overcome or learn to manage.

"I know that colleagues, at the request of their bosses, entered my Facebook to see if it really was as bad as it said," adds San José.

The dismissal or the contraction of the salary are not the only reprisals that threaten workers with anxiety or depression.

Mercedes' (not her real name) boss overwhelmed her throughout her sick leave: “She kept asking me when she was planning to come back.

When I told her that she was staying for a month, she replied: 'Jolin, and now what do we do?'

She has requested voluntary discharge against the recommendations of her doctor "for fear of dismissal," explains this 30-year-old from Tarragona.

Prieto suffered consequences in his job after an anxiety leave. Juan Manuel Serrano Arce

Something similar is happening to Gloria, who also does not want to give her real name and is now on leave due to anxiety.

“I keep getting calls from work.

It's desperate.

What I need is to disconnect to be better, but I can't do it”.

The calls that hurt her the most are those from her boss: “She is very aware of how I am, but she tells me: 'In confidence, when do you think you'll come back?'

That is malicious, he does it to put pressure.

He knows that I am a responsible person, that I want to work, and he makes me feel guilty.”

She believes that the main factor that has caused her anxiety crisis is overwork: “I am a psychologist at a day center for people with dementia.

It is a very demanding job and there is an overload problem.

We are under a lot of pressure, we do many more hours than we are paid... If you are wrong,

you verbalize it and the pace is not slowed down, they show you that they are not concerned about the health of the workers”.

Gloria believes that most mental health sick leave is related to stress at work.

The book

Sedados: how modern capitalism created the mental health crisis

(

Captain Swing ) starts from this premise.

, 2022), the work of James Davies, Professor of Social Anthropology and Psychotherapy at the University of Roehampton (United Kingdom).

“People suffer because they may be doing work that they find meaningless or emotionally numbing;

they may be overworked and underpaid, or subject to an economy where there are huge structural problems that negatively affect their well-being: stagnant wages, rising wage inequality, increased short-termism in the labor market, erosion of union labor protections , longer working hours, less job security, greater precariousness...”, he explains in a conversation with this newspaper.

“We must not medicalize these problems, but address them on a social and political level.

The mental health narrative helps us avoid that.

It depoliticizes our anguish, blaming us instead of the systems in which we work and operate.”

“Usually,” Davies continues, “the person is simply responding to harmful environments or mistreatment in the workplace, which should be the real targets of our interventions and reforms.”

Davies is especially critical that the solution to this type of problem goes through drugs.

Antonio Cano, professor of Psychology at the Complutense University and former president of the Spanish Society for the Study of Anxiety and Stress (SEAS), also denounces the abuse of antidepressants in the health system: "People must be explained and trained so that they know what to do at a cognitive and behavioral level when faced with situations that generate stress, but there are no clinical psychologists in primary care.

Where do the people who cannot pay 80 euros per session go then?

Well, to the family doctor who sees them in five minutes.

Problems, in the long term, are not solved with a drug”.

Cano insists that it is “normal” for stress to be caused by “work overload, mistreatment in the office,

More information

“A reduction in working hours would improve mental health”

Spain dedicates barely 4% of the investment in health to mental health (the European average is 5.5% and there are countries that reach 10%) and in the public network there are 11 psychiatrists for every 100,000 inhabitants, half that in France or Germany (the draft of the general mental health law contemplates 18 psychiatrists for every 100,000 inhabitants).

Clinical psychologists are even fewer: six per 100,000 inhabitants (three times less than the European average).

The prevalence of mental health ailments is higher in women than in men (34.3% of women over 40 years of age used antidepressants, anxiolytics or sedatives in 2017, compared to and 17.8% of men, according to data). of Health), a circumstance that worsened during the pandemic.

“It is important that companies have tools with which to tackle these problems: awareness campaigns, mental health programs, equality plans...”, adds Cuenca, accustomed to treating patients with anxiety because they fear they will be fired: “The Downsizing creates a lot of stress.

It is normal for people to come to the office who say: 'There has been an ERE and I know I am going to be the next one, I have to be more in the office so that they don't fire me'.

That stress prevents the worker from performing.”

This psychologist emphasizes that companies themselves have a lot to lose if they do not address these problems: "Prevention helps the health of employees and the productivity of the company."

A study by the consulting firm Deloitte in the United Kingdom supports this idea: for every pound invested in resources to improve mental health at work, it is estimated that companies earn five pounds in reduced absenteeism.

“Forward-thinking companies are investing in staff well-being, and those that do tend to save money in the long run.

There is a link between prioritizing the mental health of workers and improving loyalty and productivity, as well as decreasing sick leave,” says one of the authors, Paul Farmer.

In the same line,

"It's unfair when they don't believe you"

Not all companies respond poorly when their workers have mental health issues.

“Now the opposite of the other time has happened to me,” explains San José.

He has had mental health problems again, but the company in which he has lived this episode has not given him any problem: “They have behaved very well with me.

They have given me facilities to go to the psychologist, something that usually generates conflicts because you have to go regularly.

There have been times when I needed to telecommute and they have allowed me to.”

"It has made me realize even more how unfair it is when they don't believe you or mistreat you," continues San José, "I know many people whose work has significantly worsened their mental health."

Several of the participants in this report use the same metaphor to explain their frustration: "If you have a broken leg, everyone understands that you are on sick leave, but with anxiety or depression they do not understand you because it is not visible to the naked eye."

Prieto develops this idea: “If you have another problem, an injury or another illness, it's okay to say so, but with anxiety or depression we tend to hide it.

We are embarrassed and it shouldn't be like that.

We have to come out of the anxiety closet, both at home and at work.”

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Source: elparis

All business articles on 2022-10-02

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