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Employee Wellness

Employee Mental Health: Myths and Facts Explained

Despite efforts to increase awareness and understanding about mental health,  many workplaces still consider mental health a taboo topic.  A MindNation Pulse Survey of more than 6,000 full-time employees in the Philippines revealed that only half (50%) of respondents feel comfortable talking about their mental health challenges with their managers, while 11% do not want to talk to anyone about their challenges at all. Additionally, only 12% of employees with mental health issues truthfully admitted to their managers that they are taking a sick leave for the same reason; the others stated that it was for a physical health problem, took it as part of their annual leave, or didn’t want to give a reason at all. 

Companies whose employees who do not receive support for their mental health challenges are more likely to have higher rates of absenteeism, presenteeism, and employee turnover. These productivity losses cost organizations at least PHP7 million per year for every 1,000 employees. 

One way to address mental health in the workplace is to stop the spread of misconceptions surrounding mental health challenges. Dr. Rhalf Jayson “RJ” Guanco, a licensed psychologist and psychometrician, faculty member of the Adventist University of the Philippines, and the current president of the Adventist Mental Health Association, lists down the top 5 employee mental health myths and provides the facts to debunk them:

Myth: Hard-working people do not have mental health concerns.

Fact:  No one is exempt from mental health concerns. “Mental health concerns can occur regardless of one’s personality, age, social situation, religion, or any other factor. It can also begin at any age, from childhood to later adulthood,” Dr. RJ enumerates. “Being hardworking, dedicated, or industrious does not make a person immune from mental health challenges.”

Myth: People with mental health problems are unreliable employees/team members.

Fact: Although mental illnesses may have a negative impact on an employee’s ability to function at work, it may also have no effect at all.People with mental health concerns can go on to live happy, productive lives as long as they receive proper treatment and support. “Mental health issues are in no way a reflection of a person’s ability to perform their work functions and are not a hindrance to perform job-related tasks. The fact that an employee has a mental health problem does not diminish his or her humanity. Putting them in a negative light and calling them untrustworthy should be avoided at all costs,” Dr. RJ stresses. 

Myth: Stress is really a part of work, so those with mental health concerns are just being lazy or making excuses.

Fact: “According to research, mental health disorders are caused by a variety of factors interacting with one another, including but not limited to heredity, biology, psychological trauma, poverty, adverse childhood experiences, environmental stress, etc.,” Dr. RJ enumerates. So in order to understand mental health problems properly, the person must be viewed holistically rather than singularly, i.e. work stress.

Myth: We’re in a pandemic, so it’s normal to have mental health problems and there’s nothing we can do but ride this out.

Fact: “While it is perfectly normal to feel nervous, depressed, isolated, and agitated, or to suffer from any kind of mental health problem during abnormal events like the COVID-19 pandemic, these responses must be handled well. Not everyone can just ‘snap out of it,’” Dr. RJ explains. “The more we understand ourselves and our own mental health, the more we will be able to provide useful support to individuals in our life who are dealing with mental health issues.”

MYTH: I can’t do anything for a colleague with a mental health problem because I am not a mental health professional.

FACT: “Even if you are not a mental health professional, you can still make a significant difference in the lives of those who are suffering from mental health concerns,” Dr.RJ assures. “For example, you can provide an empathetic ear to a coworker who is experiencing difficulties. Simply being the person who is willing to listen can help someone feel better. According to studies, persons who suffer from mental illnesses grow better and many recover when they have a strong support system.”

Education, guidance, and awareness training for managers can help them spot the warning signs of mental health problems among staff and offer support before they escalate.

Partner with MindNation to build happier, healthier, and more productive teams. Visit www.themindnation.com to know more about our services. 

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Featured

Debunking LGBTQ+ Misconceptions: Facts vs. Myths

Even though there is now increased awareness about sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), many myths and misconceptions, about lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and queers (LGBTQ+) still abound. This misinformation cause members of the LGBTQ+ community to face stigmatization, discrimination, and harassment, leading them to experience mental health concerns like depression and anxiety at higher rates than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. 

We asked Amber Gonzales Quiban, Director for Policy and Campaigns of the Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY) to provide the straight facts to the 8 most common myths and misconceptions applied to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

“Conversion therapies cause more harm than good because the trauma that the person experiences can lead to the development of mental illnesses like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders.”

Amber Gonzales Quiban, Director for Policy and Campaigns of the Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY)

Myth #1: LGBTQ+ people are just going through a phase/experimenting/confused.

Fact: This misconception is especially prescribed to adolescents, as they are labeled as “misguided” and “confused” for feeling and/or experiencing a sexual attraction to someone of the same sex, both sexes, or for identifying with a gender different than the one assigned to them at birth.  But decades of research have shown that being an LGBTQ+ individual is an identity; it is a part of who they are and not a choice, lifestyle, or phase that someone grows out of. 

“If it were a phase or we were just experimenting, then it would have been an easier choice to just choose to be straight and not have to face the stigma and discrimination that comes with being a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” Amber explains. “But being gay, bixesual, or transgender is who we are, it is our reality.”

Myth #2: LGBTQ+ people are mentally ill; if they receive therapy, they will be cured.

Fact: Although homosexuality and transgenderism were once thought to be mental illnesses or diseases, both the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations have declassified them as such. The WHO even went on to emphasize that homosexuality is a natural and non-pathological variation of human sexuality.

Furthermore, studies have proven that psychiatric attempts to “cure” lesbians and gay men are not only unethical and inhumane, they have failed to change the sexual orientation of the patient. “Conversion therapies cause more harm than good because the trauma that the person experiences can lead to the development of mental illnesses like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders,” Amber points out.  

Myth #3: They became LGBTQ+ because they were brought up the wrong way.

Fact: There are no studies that show that children from dysfunctional families are more likely to grow up to gay, bisexual, or transgender any more than children who were raised in loving homes. 

Additionally, many scientists and researchers have studied a variety of reasons that may contribute to a specific sexual orientation or gender identity, including genetics and environmental influences. To this day, there is no consensus that sexual orientation or transgenderism is determined by any single factor or even a combination of factors.

“No one is raised to become gay,” Amber reiterates. This is why when LGBTQ+ members are asked  “When did you choose to be gay/lesbian/bi/trans?” most of them would say that there was no sense of choice regarding their sexual orientation and gender identity; that is just the way they feel. “It’s like asking a heterosexual person ‘When did you choose to be straight?’ There’s no answer to that,” she adds.

Myth #4: I should not expose myself or my loved ones to LGBTQ+ peers/relatives or watch shows with LGBTQ+ themes to prevent them from becoming gay, bisexual, or transgender. 

Fact: Learning about or spending time with people who are LGBTQ+ does not influence the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person or harm the well-being of minors. What it can do is help build empathy and respect towards others, potentially reducing homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia for years to come. 

Myth #5: There is no such thing as trangenders. Transwomen are gays, and transmen are lesbians. 

Fact: Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Transpersons have been documented in many indigenous, Western, and Eastern cultures and societies from antiquity until the present day.

“Gender is a social construct, it varies from society to society and can change over time. This means you can break it,” Amber stresses. “And we should not stop people from breaking gender norms because at the end of the day, these gender roles are just imposed upon us.” 

Myth #6: Letting transgenders use the bathroom matching their gender identity is dangerous.

Fact: One of the main arguments against trans-inclusive bathrooms is the perception that sexual predators can gain access to female-only bathrooms. “If people are worried about men who would disguise themselves as transwomen to enter female bathrooms to sexually harass women, then transwomen are not the problem,” Amber stresses. 

Amber also stresses that having a bathroom exclusively for transgenders is counterproductive. “Creating a separate bathroom is just a form of exclusion,” she explains. “We should not be made to feel bad using the restrooms of the gender that we identify with. Creating gender-neutral restrooms would be more inclusive and affirmative.”

Myth #7: Letting my son play with dolls or my daughter play with cars will affect their gender identity.

Fact: Research has shown that behaviors such as playing with feminine toys or wearing feminine-colored clothes do not cause a boy to become gay or transgender, just as those same activities do not cause a girl to become heterosexual or cisgender. 

Myth #8: If someone comes out to me, it means they are attracted to me. 

Fact: “We don’t come out to people because we are attracted to them; we do because we trust them and they are a safe space for us,” Amber emphasizes. “Coming out entails so much fear and burden so when someone comes out to you, be thankful and proud of yourself because someone believes in you and they are willing to risk their lives just to come out to you.”

As an ally and a friend, it’s important that you take a stand for LGBTQ+ rights and join in the fight for equality. By educating yourself about what it means to be LGBTQ+, normalizing conversations related to LGBTQ+ matters with loved ones, and calling out myths and microaggressions, you can play an active role in helping build a kinder and more inclusive community. 

To our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters and allies in the Philippines, you are not alone. MindNation’s psychologists and WellBeing Coaches are available 24/7 for teletherapy sessions if you need someone to talk to. Book a session now through FB Messenger http://m.me/themindnation or email [email protected]

Categories
Mental Health 101

Breaking 7 Myths About Meditation

Meditation has been proven to more than just reduce stress and help us achieve inner peace. Studies have shown that a regular meditation practice can also lengthen our attention span, reduce age-related memory loss, improve sleep, and help control pain. Additionally, meditation can be done for free, anytime and anywhere, without need for special equipment, and with zero side effects. 

While the number of people turning to meditation has increased through the years (a rough estimation of people who meditate globally ranges between 200 and 500 million), there are still many who hesitate to take up the practice because of the misconceptions that make them feel they cannot do it. We asked Dinah Salonga, co-founder and Chairman of Yogaplus (www.yogaplus.ph), one of Manila’s premier yoga studios, to debunk some common myths and explain what meditation is really about:

“Meditation is the practice of paying attention to whatever arises in the present moment, not communicating with a deity. There are no rules or dogmas to follow in meditation.”

Dinah Salonga, co-founder and Chairman of Yogaplus
  1. Meditation requires staying still for a long period of time.

Dinah: Just like dance or yoga, there are many different styles of meditation and many ways to practice it.

A. There is a dedicated practice, where you intentionally set a time to meditate in stillness for a few minutes. It’s like going to the gym; while you’re there, you focus on doing your exercises.

B. For those who have difficulty sitting still, there is the integrated practice, where you can meditate while doing an activity like walking, eating, hiking, or drinking coffee. Yoga is another example of a moving meditation practice.

  1. You need to be able to sit in an uncomfortable lotus position (a cross-legged sitting pose in which each foot is placed on the opposite thigh).

Dinah: Not at all. You can sit in a normal cross-legged position, or even sit down on your heels in a kneeling position. If being on the floor is not comfortable, you can meditate while sitting on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, or even standing up. You may even lie down — just make sure you don’t fall asleep. 

The important thing is to be in a position where you are comfortable and your spine is in neutral alignment — this means the spine is straight but not rigid, making it easier for you to breathe. 

  1. Meditation is a religious practice so I don’t want to do it because I’m a devout Catholic/Christian/Muslim/etc.

Dinah: Although many religions talk about meditation and its importance, the practice is more spiritual than religious. Meditation is the practice of paying attention to whatever arises in the present moment, not communicating with a deity. There are no rules or dogmas to follow in meditation; if there is chanting in a session, it is only done as a means of helping the mind concentrate, and is completely optional.   

  1. The goal of meditation is to empty the mind and feel calm and peaceful.

Dinah: Just as there are different styles of meditations, there are also different goals. You can meditate to relax, to empty the mind, or to learn to pay attention. The last one is called mindfulness meditation, where distractions are a part of the practice and you will be taught how to respond when you are distracted.

  1. One session of meditation can solve my problems (i.e.  depression, anxiety, etc) right away.

Dinah: Definitely not. Meditation is a practice and something you need to do regularly to experience the benefits. In some instances, it may not even be the right solution for your current situation. If you have a mental health problem, for example, it will be best to consult a professional and get their advice on whether meditation can help you.

  1. You need to practice meditation for YEARS to reap the benefits.

Dinah: Even just short segments of practice (i.e. one minute a few times a day) can already make a difference in making our minds more calm. Sure, it might take some time to feel that meditation has completely transformed you, the way you live, and your overall happiness; just like any other skill, the more you practice, the longer the effects will last. Take it step by step and enjoy the process of getting to know your mind. 

  1. Meditation is hard, it’s only for women/monks/elderly/etc. 

Dinah: Meditation is simple but is not easy. Think of it as driving or riding a bike — these are skills that can be done by anyone. We can all learn and become good at it if we practice. With a few exceptions (like some mental health issues), almost everyone can do it. 

MindNation Wellness Coaches are available 24/7 to help you build better physical and mental health habits. Book a teletherapy session with them through FB Messenger http://m.me/themindnation or email [email protected].

The Yogaplus Virtual Studio offers live 15-minute mindfulness meditation classes twice a week. Sign up now through bit.ly/YOGALIVE and get a free 7-day trial.

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Featured Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help

Top 10 Mental Health Myths Debunked (Part 1 of 2)

We compiled five widespread mental health myths and asked our expert to address them one by one.

Are people with mental health concerns crazy or dangerous? Can friends who are depressed or anxious “snap out of it” if they try hard enough? Are teenagers immune to mental health concerns? Prof. Jhon Carandang, a registered psychologist and behavioral therapist with the Love Institute, helps us answer these questions.

  1. Mental illness is rare. All my friends and family members are fine, and so am I!
    Prof. Carandang: “It only SEEMS rare, and there are two reasons for that:

One — there is still not much awareness yet about the signs and symptoms of mental health concerns. Because of this, people don’t know that they or their loved ones are already suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders.

The second reason is the stigma surrounding mental health concerns. Even if people know they need to seek treatment or help, they are afraid to let others know or even talk about it because they will be labelled negatively.” (see #2)

  1. People with mental health concerns are crazy/unpredictable/unfun to be with so I should not hire them, get into a romantic relationship with them, or even be friends with them.
    Prof. Carandang: “It’s true that some mental health issues can be difficult to deal with, but only a small subset of people with mental health concerns display aggressiveness towards the general population. And if they do, the behavior stems from complex, multiple, overlapping factors (such as family history, personal stressors, and socioeconomic factors) and not because of the mental health concern itself. Many people with mental health concerns are responsible employees, great friends, and reliable romantic partners.  

Also, it’s not that they do not want to do fun activities with you, it’s because they are struggling with something inside that only they can understand, and this struggle can be very tiring and even debilitating, leaving no room for zoom parties, exercising, or eating out.
Instead of shunning people with mental health concerns, we should do our best to understand their struggles, empathize with them, and be patient. 

  1. Mental health concerns are caused by parental neglect or being scolded or spanked too often. It’s all the parents’ fault!

Prof. Carandang: “Mental health concerns are caused by many factors, and traumatic childhood experiences are only one of them. It is not right to blame a person’s por mental health on a bad childhood. There are people who grew up in loving families who end up having mental health concerns, just as there are children with turbulent family histories who grow up being able to cope with stress and negative emotions very well.”

  1. People affected can snap out of it if they try hard enough.

Prof. Carandang: “We are not in a position to know how much a person can handle, because we can never know the full story behind what he or she is going through. They could already be tired from fighting an inner battle that we cannot see. To say that someone can just ‘snap out of it if they try hard enough’ is a sign of apathy when what we should be communicating is empathy.”

  1. Adolescents don’t have mental health problems — their ups and downs are a part of puberty.

Prof. Carandang: “No one is exempted from mental issues — not by age, race, gender, wealth, or profession. Everyone is vulnerable, even young people if they have been subjected to harmful, neglectful, or stressful situations.” 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Top 10 Mental Health Myths  Debunked,” coming next Wednesday, January 13, 2021. What other questions or myths about mental health would you like us to talk about? Let us know in the comments below!

If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health concern and you need to ease your anxieties, you can always reach out to us for FREE on our FB Messenger chat helpline. The service is available 24/7 and rest assured that all conversations are absolutely confidential.   

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation