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Community Psychology concerns the relationships of the
individual to communities & society. Through collaborative research &
action, community psychologists seek to understand & enhance quality of
life for individuals, communities & society (Dalton et al. 2001). Coping
can be defined as a response aimed at diminishing the physical, emotional, and
psychological burden that is linked to stressful life events and daily hassles
(Snyder, 1999). All individuals cope with stressful encounters in different
ways, and have different support networks around them. It has been found that lack of social support
during stressful times can be very distressing (Sorkin, 2002). A way of
coping is through social support. Social support is defined as information from
others that one is loved and cared for, esteemed and valued, and part of a
network of communication and mutual obligations (Cobb, 1976; Cohen & Wills,
1985; Seeman, 1996). This essay will discuss the
contribution of community psychology in coping and support in relation to
stress in the workplace

There is an increasing understanding that work-related
stress can negatively affect the health of workers. Community Psychologists use
knowledge from research base about mediating and moderating factors to design
preventive interventions to reduce negative impacts of stressful life events
(Nelson and Prilleltensky, 2010). Stress refers to any environmental, social,
or internal demand which would require the individual to readjust their usual
behaviour patterns (Holmes and Rahe, 1967). Furthermore, stressors motivate
individuals to cope with behavioural demands and the emotional reactions that
are usually evoked by them (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984). Research suggests that
supportive relationships between co-workers benefit worker well- being, most
adults spend a significant part of their daily lives at work. In order to be
able to deal with management of difficult work related emotions and hectic
schedules research has found that it is fundamentally important for individuals
to develop positive social relationships (Cohen and Janiciki-Deverts, 2009). Feelings
of helplessness arise because of the perceived inability to cope with
situations that demand effective response. (Garber & Seligman, 1980). Social
support provides benefits such as, increased job satisfaction and enhanced well
being (Ducharme, 2008). This is further supported by Niemen et al (2013), who
stated that those who have higher amount of social networks, engage in
healthier behaviours and feel better both physically and psychologically. 

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Mental health is defined as a state of well-being
in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the
normal stresses of life, work productively, and is able to make a contribution
to their community (World Health Organization, 2014).  Statistics show that 1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mental
health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress (Mind). This is a big
problem and shows that more supportive interventions are needed. Organisations
perform better when their staff are healthy, motivated and focused. Community
psychologists have contributed prevention, action is to be taken beforehand to
limit or avoid future consequences. Gerald Caplan (1964) introduced the
distinctions among primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention strategies in
mental health, an example of a secondary prevention strategy is an employee
assistance program (Cowen et al, 1996). However, many employees are reluctant
to talk about stress at work. This is due to the negative stigma attached to
stress, and fear of being seen as ‘weak’ if they admit they are struggling to
cope. A survey conducted by organisation ‘Time To Change’ in 2013
found 67% of respondents said fear of stigma had stopped them from telling
their employer about their mental health problems. In another from 2009, 92% of
the public thought employment prospects would be damaged if they admitted to
having mental health issues.

A study by Esther M. Chang et al (2006)
identified relationships between workplace stressors, coping methods and mental
health. They found that high workload was associated with worse mental health,
suggesting that excessive workloads need attention from management. Reducing
stressors and providing support in balancing priorities could be effective
interventions.

Dalton et al (2005) proposed three types of
coping; problem-focused, meaning focused, and emotion focused. Emotion-focused
coping attempts to alleviate emotional distress, whereas,
problem-focused coping could be viewed as attempting to manage or change the
problem causing the stress (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984).  An example of emotion-focused coping may
include behaviours such as seeking others’ company or cognitive responses,
whereas problem-focused coping include problem-solving activities and seeking
information (Payne, 1991). A person’s self esteem is enhanced when they feel
they are valued and accepted despite any faults within them. So it is important
to have a caring social network around.

A study done by Ronald E. Smith et al (1994), reported
differences in coping between men and women upon being placed under identical
stressors. Women were reported to seek more social support and emotion-focused
coping, whereas men used more problem-focused coping. This further supports the
idea that different people cope in different ways. Furthermore, the
effectiveness of the coping on alleviating any problems will differ. When
stress and coping is conceptualised from an ecological perspective, it opens up
possibilities for better targeted and holistic interventions. Sabrin (1970)
speaks of the “social” ecology, where through a variety of social roles one
achieves a sense of self-worth and belongingness.

In conclusion, the contributions of community psychology in
relation to coping and support have been considerable. While interventions have
been put in place to help individuals they are still not all necessarily being
accessed and this is mainly due to individuals being unable to ask for help be
it due to fear of being seen as weak or just being afraid to ask. So further
work could be done by community psychologists in advising senior roles at
workplaces about ways in which they can reduce work induced stress in
employees.

 

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