Whether it be one at some point or simultaneous, many workers in Britain deal with anxiety, depression or stress. Not everyone likes to have a conversation about it, and yet, the issues bring about a lack of productivity in architects as they stay at home and don’t go to work. Also, the stigma associated with the subject of mental health means that most architectural practices have nothing in place to support those employees affected.
Thinking that a majority of practices in architecture are in no place to help affected employees in terms of mental health is a stigma everyone has to, unfortunately, deal with every day. Another shame is that mental illness, like all illnesses, is associated or tied to being weak which makes those suffering it closed to the discussion of their mental state. And since everyone is closed off to it, it is awkward for colleagues to talk about due to reluctance which adds more isolation to a person.
What one person thinks of as demonstrating strong skills in an area may not be the same as what you would think of as demonstrating strong skills in that area. — Amy Armstrong, MS, NCC, MCC, LPC
Is There A Problem?
Before discussing the “how” or aka the “solutions,” first discuss the “why.” Why do architects, or in general people, suffer from mental health issues? The reasons can either be their disease is inheritable, because of environmental stress, biochemical imbalances or experiences such as trauma. There are specific characteristics in the way architects work that can amplify the likelihood of a mental issue to happen, namely:
- Being poorly paid
- Too much overtime
- Being affected negatively when it comes to workloads that are ‘famine or feast.’
- The high and constant need to defend a design personal to them
- Compromising ethics and beliefs
- Challenges caused by modern technology
- Feeling isolated by co-workers
- A majority of architects work without HR support
Healthy Mental Well-being At The Office Or Field
Any employer can help address the well-being of his employees and make sure that everyone, not just those affected by mental health issues, will feel the support as it improves the way everyone works. These include:
- Making certain that the company’s insurance covers mental health plans.
- First aid specialists who specialize in mental health should be present in the office or available on-call.
- Providing resources that aid in informing one of the mental health issues and encouraging that they seek support must also be present.
- Ensuring that someone in the office is generally trained in terms of understanding mental health issues is a must.
- The balance in work and personal life should be addressed. Encourage them to put their family and personal commitments first and do not contact them during holidays unless necessary.
- Management must interact with staff and identify any triggers in the workplace.
- They must use readily available support like assistance programs to catch issues early on.
- Look up mental health websites for advice.
As our understanding of brain states advances, and as the tools that we can use to measure how our brains are functioning move out into the real world in the form of simple sensors for a variety of physiological measures, we may be able to characterize more closely how the shape, size, and surfaces of architectural spaces affect our minds, our bodies, our physiological states and even our long-term health. — Colin Ellard Ph.D.
Mental Health Issues That Affect Architects
Just like physical ailments, there are also various mental health issues being experienced by architects. Some are common such as anxiety, panic attacks, anger issues, depression, insomnia, or suicidal thoughts and the likes while others are more complex such as psychosis or schizophrenia.
Signs To Look Out For As An Employer
Diagnosing if someone is possibly mentally ill isn’t just like figuring out that one has a common cold – you can’t quickly jump into conclusions that they are mentally sick. None of these mean that they automatically need first aid in terms of mental health but, one can note that someone will get advantage from a talk, a gentle reduction in workload, or just from closer observation:
- Sudden change in the way they interact with colleagues
- Lack of focus and motivation to do well in work
- The struggle to make decisions, get organized and find solutions to problems
- Appearing tired or anxious and the disappearance of passion in the activities they previously loved
- Changes in eating habits, appetite the appearance or increase of vices
What To Do As An Employer
If you suspect your architects to be suffering from a mental health issue, as an employer, you don’t have the right to offer advice. The cause of their problems can be problems of finance, relationships or other personal things. Directly lending your ear may be able to lift the weight and get them back on track. Do not underestimate the power of listening. You can also:
- Implant a mentality that encourages staff to be open about mental issues
- If you have concerns, have a conversation with a mental health specialist and be open about it
- Have an assistance plan as support
- Aid in time management when they are off sick and fill them up on any information they may be missing
Are You Suffering From It?
Spotting signs that you might be close to having an issue regarding mental health is challenging to accept. There are signs that we all commonly feel due to work such as constantly worrying about work, insomnia, shutting out social life or the inability to take a break. If you’re not careful, it could make you feel upset, restless, empty, or downright oppressed. And again, these are common with the only difference being the coping mechanism. It will affect your career as an architect.
Practical Steps To Take
Don’t just depend on others to do it for you. Analyze how best to handle a situation, take tough actions, repeat. — Mira Brancu, Ph.D.
Feeling uncertain when it comes to opening up about your mental well-being is not uncommon, so is acting tough and only speaking when you’re on the verge of breaking down. However, it is better to seek help regardless of uncertainty and doubt. Maybe you don’t want the help because it is challenging to cope with one’s feelings, the said feelings and thoughts affect your life daily, and you want to see if there is any support available.
Again, seek the assistance of a mental health professional. Follow what the professional will recommend and do the program willingly.