Psychological Health Continuum & Performance

What is psychological health continuum and how does it affect performance?

Psychological problems and illnesses can affect anyone and are often resulted from a complex interplay of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors. As such, psychological health is not a binary, “you have psychological problem” or “you don’t have psychological problem” type of outcome. Rather, the state of our psychological health lies on a continuum, ranging from excellent level of psychological wellness to severe psychological illness or disability. Our state of psychological health can change quickly or gradually over time depending on various contributing factors or situations (positive or negative) that we may encounter at the time. Such would include but not limited to: a death in the family, birth of a child, severe financial loss, acute or chronic illness, job loss or job gain, high or low stress at work, and many others. With the many changes and possible challenges throughout our life, we may experience excellent psychological health at one stage, strained psychological health at another stage, or very poor psychological health at yet another stage.

When an employee’s/member’s psychological health is in a strained, injured, or ill state, it decreases or even debilitates their capacity to perform optimally and to be productive. If employees/members feel highly stressed, unsafe, and/or psychologically unwell, they would not have the full physical, emotional, and/or mental capacity to deliver and maintain their best performance.  In order to cope and function as best as they could from day to day, a portion of their energy, concentration, resources, and general capacity need to be dedicated to dealing with their stress, lack of safety, and/or mental health problems or illness (which could prompt the manifestation of physical ailments and vice-versa). Depending on how severe their condition is, they may not be able to fulfill their basic job duties, may be utterly disengaged from work, or worse yet, may be unsafe to themselves and others. Multiply by tens or hundreds of employees plus the effects on those working, living, or interacting regularly with these employees, the magnitude of the productivity loss, financial loss, and human suffering could be staggering.

Chart Above Adapted from: National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces: Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) as well as Mental Health Commission of Canada: The Working Mind Mental Health Continuum

Helping employees/members to access early intervention/care when they are psychologically strained as well as to take the actions necessary to strengthen their psychological resiliency and ability to cope is essential to the maintenance of their daily productivity and wellness. This is especially critical in times when the stressors and problems in their life are becoming difficult to handle and are starting to interfere with their personal or professional effectiveness. There are some essential initiatives that an organization can take to mitigate psychological hazards and risks, prevent psychological injury as well as promote psychologically wellness and productivity among employees/members. These include but not limited to having a corporate strategy for psychological wellness and safety, management and employee training, psychological wellness and safety sensitive policies and processes as well as effective psychological strain/injury/illness care, case management, and return-to-work programs. To find more about, please visit our Ensuring Workplace Psychological Safety and Wellness page.