DA-BAR staff undergo mental health awareness seminar

“Mental health problems usually start with a single stress experience but there are people who do not know how to manage their stress. Usually that single stress experience, when compounded over time and you do not know how to manage it, would eventually lead to what we call chronic stress experience. This is where the problems start,” said clinical psychologist Rainier S. Ladic in a mix of Filipino and English.

Ladic served as the resource speaker for the seminar, Cultivating Mental Health and Wellness to Promote a Safe Psychosocial Environment in DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research, conducted on 25 October 2023 through a blended setup. 

He discussed the salient provisions of the Republic Act 11036 or Mental Health Act, early signs and symptoms of common mental health issues in the workplace, work-related risk factors for mental health issues, and psychological well-being practices to prevent or reduce mental health conditions.

Ladic defined stress as our body’s reaction to a threat such as deadlines that we are not prepared for. He emphasized that stress allows us to create coping strategies that we use to address our problems. Once we have resolved these problems, it brings us a sense of pride in ourselves and gives us a better appreciation of the meaning of our lives. It allows us to create and modify coping mechanisms that make us resilient and progressive as a person over time.

He reiterated, however, that unmanaged stress can lead to chronic stress which makes our body release more cortisol — a stress hormone that makes our minds sharper and allows us to concentrate better. Excessive amounts of cortisol weaken our immune system and burns blood vessels in our brain, thereby physically affecting our quality of life.

Anxiety, meanwhile, is our reaction to stress. While, burnout is caused by chronic stress and unsuccessful management of stress. Symptoms of burnout include energy depletion or exhaustion, mental separation from work, and reduced professional efficacy.

Ladic said that we have a work culture that expects employees to do what is right and correct. That when employees commit mistakes, no matter how trivial it may seem, all the right things that they did are relegated to the sidelines. This is one of the reasons why a lot of employees have low self-esteem.

He said, “Kapag tama ang ginagawa natin parang hindi nare-recognize, parang hindi nako-commend, hindi ka na-affirm kasi expected sa inyo ng kumpanya na dapat tama lagi ang gagawin mo. Kapag ikaw nagkamali, ‘yon pa ang mas nare-reinforce, mas na-emphasize. Kumbaga, sa lahat ng tamang ginawa mo, bakityong isang mali ko galit na galit ka?’

He advised supervisors to handle their direct reports’ mistakes by teaching them how to properly do things using gentle words. This provides them with the realization that there is opportunity for growth in the workplace.

Chronic burnout leads to mental or nervous breakdown. It is a period of intense mental distress when dysfunction happens in your everyday living. Symptoms, such as depressive episodes or frequent panic attacks, vary per person.

If mental breakdowns are left unmanaged, the likelihood of developing psychological disorders increases. Usually severe types of psychological disorders start with depression.

“In Psychology, depression is the common cold of psychological disorder…Depression is the absence of happiness. It is not sadness because sadness is a transient feeling,” Ladic explained.

People with depression experience anhedonia or loss of pleasure. As Ladic emphasized, depression is not a type of transient mood but a disease. It is caused by both sociological and biological factors. People with depression have low levels of serotonin and dopamine, or the happy hormones. They need medical and psychological interventions and social support.

Ladic also discussed the effects of mental health issues in the workplace like presenteeism and absenteeism, staff attrition, reduction in performance and productivity, and inability to work safely and gain and retain work.  He also explained ways on how to improve mental health in the workplace such as designing mental health programs, promulgate work-life-balance, and practicing self-help mental health techniques.

He ended the discussion by stressing that “achieving mental health in the workplace is an effort of both organizational and personal aspects. Since people are what makes an organization progressive, then harmony is achieved when people are willing to work together.”

This activity was spearheaded by the bureau’s Human Resource Management Section based on the training needs assessment and in compliance with the Mental Health Act. (### Rena S. Hermoso)