Mental health awareness’ and ‘Mental illness With Work Personality vs Real Personality?
In my imagination, I see myself in a beautiful home showered by the golden afternoon sunlight, the slant rays flirting with my plush plants, the room filled with a heady aroma of cinnamon tea being brewed and scones being baked, a happy child heading out to the playground and me, curled up in my favorite corner either with a book or magazine, after returning from work.
No worries, no stress, and lifelike this could go on never-ending.
The reality for me was nothing like that image. I was so immersed in that facade of happiness that somewhere I missed the fine prints of life and I lost the signal and skipped the cue.
For once, the happy child that I thought I saw, was not happy and I failed to support this emotional turmoil, again, when my father left me standing all by myself without saying goodbye, or him giving me one of his famous pep talk on how I would live without him, my paradise was lost forever.
I did not see it coming until I found myself at rock bottom, shrouded in melancholy. And that’s when the antidepressants made their way into my world. I found out I am not the only one who needs to sort the tangles of their mind; there are many like me and a lot more who do not realize the importance of maintaining mental health.
With globalization, we have adopted many prejudicial or damaging nuances in our social and private lives. For one, the velocity with which our high paced corporate living style and the constant need to feed our virtual egos and identities are accelerating, things can be quite exhausting. And these, at times, make us reach for the handbrake. Hence, the need for counselors, psychiatrists, therapists, arises for some of us who find it suffocating or too much to grasp.
Setting the parameters
Society has a longstanding misinterpretation and superstition regarding mental health. There’s a key difference between ‘mental health awareness’ and ‘mental illness.’ People usually make the mistake of associating the two.
Mental Health Awareness does not only deal with the illness of the mind, but also acknowledges the process of taking care of it, realizing one’s own deficiencies and abilities regarding mental health, and staying productive while dealing with daily stress. When a person’s attitude and feelings are normal, they are considered to be mentally healthy; whereas mental illness maps out the diseases of the mind.
“Every one of us must take care of our mental health, like dental health or physical health, and seek professional help when we suffer from mental illness just like we would see a dentist when we have a toothache.
“Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities (APA) and well being is a keyword in the WHO definition of health — “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” says Dr. Helal Uddin Ahmed, Associate Professor, Child Adolescent, and Family Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and Secretary-General of Bangladesh Association for Child & Adolescent Mental Health (BACAMH).
On the stigma of being ill
You would often hear people in small towns or villages say colloquially that one has caught ‘bad air’ or ‘batash large.’ In other words, they say evil spirits have taken over the person or the child and they seek the help of village shamans or ‘ojhas.’
“The shamans often tie the person concerned to a tree, beat with sticks, scorch with burning stamps, and make them walk on fire— all to get the ‘spirit’ out of the possessed body. A few years ago, Prothom Alo, the Bangla daily, published a picture of two new-born babies that were hung upside down and were being banged together for similar reasons.
“Such treatments are deadly, and traumatic experience for the patient no doubt, and all the while, the villagers and neighbors standby and watch. The talisman or religious blow-on might have a placebo effect, but it cannot cure the ailing mind. Moreover, the traumatic experience darkens the patient’s spirits more,” says Dr. Niaz Mohammad Khan, Associate Professor, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Dr. Avra Das Bhowmik, Associate Professor, NIMH also expressed his concern over this general behavior of treating mental illness.
“Recently, this practice of calling shamans is becoming less frequent because of the general awareness building up among villagers; they take the patient to government health complexes or community hospitals. The need of the hour is to make these hospitals equipped with doctors who can give them the first medication and refer them to psychiatrists, or counselors. Also, the MBBS syllabus must include an early management course on psychiatry. We have approximately 250 or so working psychiatrists in the country, this number should increase and more doctors should take up this study.
We should address the misconception and stigma associated with mental health through general education, orientation to the general doctors, and for our patients, family support is a key factor.
The caregivers’ angle
Sleepless nights and bloodshot eyes, the flooding of ideas and thoughts and the incessant chatters followed by cups of caffeine and puffs of nicotine, tackling and debating with ease on topics like Che or Mao or Shabagh Mancho to onions prices all at one go; you think your friend is a genius.
But his mother knows, her son needs to sleep, needs to take a pause, needs to calm down. His hyper overdrive or manic phases will soon be overshadowed with dark moods and self-harm acts. The panic-stricken nights when the mother silently stands outside his doors, sobbing and praying that behind the doors he banged closed, that her son is safe and that the demons in his heads are not torturing him to the edge.
The unsteady steps, the monologues, the sleep paralysis, the phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorders are all things we need to discuss at large within the family boundaries, and learn to tackle each episode calmly.
Family members of a person suffering from mental illness or disorders shoulder the vast majority of long-term care responsibilities towards the patient. This also puts severe pressure on the caregivers or family members, for example they suffer from adverse health effects such as elevated stress and depression, feelings of stigmatization, chronic medical conditions, the need to use of tranquilizers, and antidepressants for themselves and that too ever so often. Their quality of life has to be compromised, not to forget the financial stresses, and to limit time for leisure and socializing. The family members too should regularly distress a counselor to continue supporting the ill. The parent or the caregiver should be given ample social support and adaptive coping ideas, they must know that solving the problem and tackling it head-on is more effective than avoidance and that there are other emotional coping strategies to de-stress yourself.
The importance of hospitals and doctors
With a lost look in his eyes, a man in his mid-twenties is walking down the dark and dreary corridors of the National Institute of Mental Health Hospital at Shyamoli. The Tk 10 ticket allows him to see a psychiatrist.
The sun never rose in these long, spacious yet dirty passageways, and most of the people there are disheveled and listless. If you just pace through these hallways at the huge building of the mental health hospital, you would get the exact visuals of how we perceive mental health.
Languid and lethargic, no one shows any interest to sweep away the dirt and cobwebs, no one shows a special interest to brighten up the wards or counseling rooms. Yet, I would say the doctors there are extremely professional and tolerant with their patients trying their best under the circumstances.
The National Institute of Mental Health was established and started its journey from 2001. At present, the hospital houses 200 indoor beds with seven departments — Adult psychiatry, Child, Adolescent and Family Psychiatry, Social and Community Psychiatry, Organic and Geriatric Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Forensic Psychiatry, Addiction Psychiatry, and they have five OPD (outpatient departments) daily.
The old four-storied building is being renovated to eight levels. This vertical extension will be adding 200 to 400 existing beds and is expected to run from 2020. Currently, the hospital houses 180 to 200 in-patients in a month. The insufficient doctor team at the hospital gets more than 300 daily out-patients.
Generally speaking, the doctors are witnessing an increase in patients but they are attributing the trend to awareness building. According to the national survey, results show an increase of patients, 17 percent among adults, and 14 percent among children. There are very few hospitals catering to mental illness in the city and NIHM is in dire straits and overburdened, not exactly a place where we can go for counseling. Thus, along with psychiatrists, the city needs affordable hospitals providing counseling and psychotherapy.
To understand better, here is the difference between a counselor, a therapist, a psychiatrist, and a clinical psychologist: Mental health experts include psychiatrists and psychologists.
Mental health professionals: include psychiatrists and psychologists, psychiatric social workers among others.
Mental health workforce: includes occupational therapists, speech therapists, and physiotherapists among others.
Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are physicians who manage mental illness. They are the only mental health professionals trained to combine physical (organic or medical), psychological and social.
Clinical Psychologist: A clinical psychologist is a mental health professional with highly specialized training in the diagnosis and psychological treatment of mental, behavioral, and emotional illnesses. Counselor/Therapist: Mental health professionals, having university degree/ training on basic counseling and therapy actors in understanding etiology, and recommending management of psychiatric disorders.
In psychology, personality refers to the unique and relatively permanent characteristic pattern of behaviors and traits that influence how a person interacts and responds to his/her environment. That would be the ‘real’ personality, as opposed to one’s ‘work personality’, which, simply put, is the characteristic pattern of behaviors and traits that influence how a person interacts and responds to his/her work environment.
Work Personality vs Real Personality
Are work and real personalities different? Not necessarily. Work personality and real personality can be seen as lying on a continuum of personality traits. These personalities may even be the different facets of a trait or a set of traits, as personality traits are expressed differently in different situations. For example, an extrovert may exhibit leadership behaviors at work, but be very agreeable (and not take the lead) in a peer group. While both are characteristics of sociability, these behaviors are different, but suitable to their respective contexts.
An individual’s response to the environment is not determined by their personality alone, but also the context. ‘Work’ has a different culture, and this culture influences how and what traits are manifested. Some kinds of behaviors are encouraged in the workplace, such as competitiveness, and corresponding personality traits may become more manifest in such a cultural setting. The appropriateness of behaviors in the context is also why work personality differs from our real personality.
One’s job role influences the personality traits that are allowed to surface. For example, a finance executive, with high conscientiousness as well as extroversion, may express the former trait and corresponding behaviors more frequently in her job, but may not have the opportunity to express sociability, because the job role may not really require that trait to be expressed.
Work personality may also be molded by mirroring behavioral and vicarious (observational) learning. We see some behaviors of other people as achieving intended results and tend to learn and mirror those behaviors (both consciously and unconsciously), which reflects on how and which of our personality traits are expressed.
It is noted that organizations that are inclusive of different personality types have happier employees, yet there are employees who tend to cover up their personalities in both inclusive and non-inclusive organizations. It is human nature to adapt and cope as situations change, be it at work or at home. Not revealing various aspects of personality can be seen as a way to get along with coworkers and to fit in the work environment.
While a few people are able to adapt themselves with ease, some find it to be extremely stressful when they can’t be themselves. This is why it is crucial to assess culture fit before hiring candidates as it can benefit both the employees and organizations. Employees should not adapt a work personality out of pressure but must feel the need to improve or better themselves. This kind of positive reinforcement can help both employees and the organizations to move toward a positive growth path. Organizations can help employees to be their real selves by introducing training programs that can help them be their real selves. For the training programs to be effective, the employees must undergo a personality evaluation test.
Evaluation of Personality
Personality evaluation usually involves interpreting and scoring various traits. Evaluation of personality in recruitment helps to accurately predict behavioral patterns that may arise in a variety of work situations. Recruiters can make use of real personality tests to better understand the characteristics of a job applicant or an employee. Psychometricians and subject matter experts have created highly accurate personality tests that help to compare a job applicant’s work personality vs. home personality and also their online personality vs. real personality.
If work personality is indeed distinct from one’s real personality, are personality tests for screening and selection even effective? Yes, they are. The utility of personality tests (standardized ones, not those Facebook or Buzz Feed quizzes) can’t be stressed upon enough, because good personality tests bring out one’s real personality traits and can map matching work behaviors.
Top organizations around the world use psychometric tests to assess the personality of job applicants. It is proven that these tests provide accurate behavioral analysis, which is crucial for making better recruitment decisions and avoiding miss-hires.
The most popular personality assessment tools include the Big 5 personality theory, Dimension 8, Generic Personality Questionnaire, and Leadership Styles Questionnaire. The format of these scientific tests helps to identify the real personality of candidates compared to the projected work personality.
These tests come in handy to analyze behavioral traits of entry-level candidates that make them employable. It also measures crucial factors such as extroversion, emotional stability, etc., that are expected from experienced candidates. The test is also used as part of post recruitment development to analyze if any employee is facing stressful situations at work and the factors that are stopping them from bringing their real personality to work.
Personality Continuum Scale
Every organization is made of people with different personalities, and these personalities can be broadly classified into introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts. Through general observation, it is noted that introverts are less outgoing and shy compared to extroverts who are more sociable and expressive. An ambivalent is identified as a person with a balance of introvert and extrovert qualities. A personality continuum scale marks introvert, ambivert, and extrovert. The introvert and extrovert percentages range from 25 to 50 and more. The ambivert is shown balanced at the center of the scale.
The use of the personality continuum scale test in recruitment is significant. It not only helps to ascertain if a candidate is an introvert or extrovert but also helps to analyze and whether these qualities make them capable of doing a job that is required of them.
Aren’t all of us trying to make a good impression at work? We are clearly being evaluated for what we do and achieve, and with tangible consequences, which is not always the case in our lives outside work. We are careful about what personality traits we exhibit at work, how and to what degree.
So, can work personality be faked? Well, impression management does take place, but personality is ‘relatively permanent’, remember? Prolonged ‘faking’ of personality traits can lead to cognitive dissonance and emotional labor, and may eventually result in psychological distress. So, no, it’s not ideal to fake one’s work personality (and also not always possible!).
Recruiters should seek to match candidates’ real personality traits to the behavioral requirements of the job, especially in the attempt to reduce dissonance, because, work engagement and mental health of an employee, in the long run, are as important as selecting the right candidate for that urgent job opening, aren’t they?
Matching only cognitive skills to the job role is not enough; personality goes a long way in getting the ‘perfect match’ between the person and the job. What good can an intelligent salesperson do if her introversion dissuades her from developing and maintaining good customer relationships?
That being said, understanding personality doesn’t end with personality testing; it begins there. Personality and other behavioral test results should be taken in context, and interpretation and the resultant decisions should be supported by data from other sources such as interviews and past records of performance. Because, “in god we trust; all others must show data”, even ‘work personalities’.