If you are surrounded by people who cannot help but complain about their anxieties and depressive thoughts, you could end up feeling the same way too. When your coworker feels sad, they may vent their thoughts to you, which in turn makes you sad as well. The antidote to this phenomenon is healthy communication around emotions in the workplace instead.

How Negative Emotions Spread

A study first published in May of 2021 from Administrative Science Quarterly looked at 250,000 coworkers over the course of 12 years who spread their symptoms of mental health disorders to new hires within their company. Researches found that depression and anxiety can be spread socially if new hires do not know what to say to someone who seems depressed.

Mental health symptoms can also be contagious emotionally, as in the case of a coworker who is constantly sharing their complaints to you, making you just as depressed as they are. In order to have a working relationship with our coworkers, we do not want to shut them down when they come to us to vent, but many cannot help but feel sad and nervous as they listen.

Under-Reported Mental Health Disorders From Pandemic

Because people have been so concerned over the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health symptoms often take a backseat. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19% of people experienced anxiety, and seven percent had a depressive episode the past year.

Negative emotions can come if the work environment is toxic, but there are other cases where people who already have mental health disorders come into perfectly healthy work environments. “Contagious” mental health disorders can ruin the efforts that a company has worked so hard to achieve unless more communication occurs between employers and employees.

What Can Be Done

Just like employers would have to ask new workers for proof of vaccination to avoid a COVID outbreak at the office, the same needs to be said about conducting mental health screenings. Regular conversations and screenings around mental health, along with concrete actions to improve work-life balance, can help create an environment where employees feel comfortable asking for help. Seeking support needs to be encouraged in the office. If more people have the courage to speak to their boss about their mental health, they have a better chance of gaining resources to feel better.

Mental health issues have a tendency to be contagious in the workplace. If we see someone who is anxious or depressed, we can end up feeling the same way during the workday. By encouraging communication about mental health issues, more employees can work productively. At Alta Loma, we are big believers in breaking the stigma around mental health, and we are here to help you. Located in Georgetown, Texas, we can provide you with individualized therapy, life and coping skills education, a long-term continuum of care, and more. Call us at (866) 457-3843 for more information.