According to an occupational psychologist David Büchel, the Quality of Work Index 2020 survey by the Chamber of Employees (CSL) and the University of Luxembourg showed that the Covid-19 crisis has increased the number of workers showing signs of depression, with 30% of workers now at risk of depression, and 10% showing strong signs of depression, especially among older and younger workers, and people living alone.
Büchel reminds that in Europe, stress caused by psychosocial risks is estimated to account for 50-60% of all lost working days. In Luxembourg, medical leave due to depression and other stress-related illnesses has been steadily increasing for years, according to social security statistics, and in 2019 it became the medical reason that accounts for the largest share of sick days of resident employees by 17,3%.
In Canada, the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) has recently reviewed statistical data from the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST) and other sources, and according to them, injuries associated with nervous shock and post-traumatic stress disorders are the most frequent among recognised occupational injuries. They are followed by those related to anxiety and stress, depressive states, and adjustment difficulties. Büchel states that these declared and recognised injuries may certainly be only the tip of the iceberg.
The existing stigma around mental health issues
According to Büchel, the stigma around mental health issues is caused by prejudice and other negative perceptions of the disease, as well as by the lack of understanding. Social stigma is usually the result of blame; hostile comments; unfavourable opinions; and assumptions that can be heard in the public arena. Self-stigma occurs when the person with a mental illness internalizes these prejudices and negative opinions.
Stigma in the workplace can lead to discriminatory behaviour, including harassment; affect people’s attitudes and beliefs towards those struggling with their mental health, themselves included; and prevent those struggling with their mental health from feeling safe to disclose and seek support from their employer and others around them.
“People around depressed people often think that the person is responsible for his or her problems.”
Decrease the stigma by open-mindedness, caring, and compassion
Büchel underlines that an open and inclusive workplace where workers feel safe and supported to seek help early is better for everyone. According to him, the society at large needs to face the fact that mental illness is not a weakness but a natural reality that needs to be dealt with. People are complex individuals who each react in their own way to the challenges of everyday life. Open-mindedness, caring and compassion are good ways to help those who face mental health problems in the workplace.
Büchel reminds that according to the advice of the Ligue Luxembourgeoise d’Hygiène Mentale (LLHM), listening can already help.
“Depression and other mental illnesses are little known and poorly understood,” he says. “People around depressed people often think that the person is responsible for his or her problems, that it is enough for them to pull themselves together. There is often a lack of involvement on the part of those around them, who wrongly believe that only doctors and psychologists have a role to play in recovery. However, as with any illness, the person suffering from depression needs to be understood and supported by those around them.”
Büchel underlines that the people around depressed have just as important a role to play as the professionals. It is not a question of replacing the health professional or giving medical recommendations. Being present and listening is enough to help the person feel less alone and contributes to their recovery.
Where to start looking for help in Luxembourg?
Seeking help is important. Do not hesitate to contact your doctor or psychologist if you have been feeling unwell for several weeks already.
More information is available on the Information portal on mental health set up by the Ligue Luxembourgeoise d’Hygiène Mentale (LLHM); on the LLHM brochure on depression (paper version also available in English); and on the LLHM brochure on anxiety (paper version also available in English).