Community Psychology concerns the relationships of theindividual to communities & society. Through collaborative research &action, community psychologists seek to understand & enhance quality oflife for individuals, communities & society (Dalton et al. 2001). Copingcan be defined as a response aimed at diminishing the physical, emotional, andpsychological burden that is linked to stressful life events and daily hassles(Snyder, 1999).
All individuals cope with stressful encounters in differentways, and have different support networks around them. It has been found that lack of social supportduring stressful times can be very distressing (Sorkin, 2002). A way ofcoping is through social support. Social support is defined as information fromothers that one is loved and cared for, esteemed and valued, and part of anetwork of communication and mutual obligations (Cobb, 1976; Cohen & Wills,1985; Seeman, 1996). This essay will discuss thecontribution of community psychology in coping and support in relation tostress in the workplaceThere is an increasing understanding that work-relatedstress can negatively affect the health of workers. Community Psychologists useknowledge from research base about mediating and moderating factors to designpreventive 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 usualbehaviour patterns (Holmes and Rahe, 1967). Furthermore, stressors motivateindividuals to cope with behavioural demands and the emotional reactions thatare usually evoked by them (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984). Research suggests thatsupportive relationships between co-workers benefit worker well- being, mostadults spend a significant part of their daily lives at work. In order to beable to deal with management of difficult work related emotions and hecticschedules research has found that it is fundamentally important for individualsto develop positive social relationships (Cohen and Janiciki-Deverts, 2009). Feelingsof helplessness arise because of the perceived inability to cope withsituations that demand effective response. (Garber & Seligman, 1980). Socialsupport provides benefits such as, increased job satisfaction and enhanced wellbeing (Ducharme, 2008).
This is further supported by Niemen et al (2013), whostated that those who have higher amount of social networks, engage inhealthier behaviours and feel better both physically and psychologically. Mental health is defined as a state of well-beingin which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with thenormal stresses of life, work productively, and is able to make a contributionto their community (World Health Organization, 2014). Statistics show that 1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mentalhealth problem such as anxiety, depression or stress (Mind).
This is a bigproblem and shows that more supportive interventions are needed. Organisationsperform better when their staff are healthy, motivated and focused. Communitypsychologists have contributed prevention, action is to be taken beforehand tolimit or avoid future consequences. Gerald Caplan (1964) introduced thedistinctions among primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention strategies inmental health, an example of a secondary prevention strategy is an employeeassistance program (Cowen et al, 1996). However, many employees are reluctantto talk about stress at work.
This is due to the negative stigma attached tostress, and fear of being seen as ‘weak’ if they admit they are struggling tocope. A survey conducted by organisation ‘Time To Change’ in 2013found 67% of respondents said fear of stigma had stopped them from tellingtheir employer about their mental health problems. In another from 2009, 92% ofthe public thought employment prospects would be damaged if they admitted tohaving mental health issues. A study by Esther M. Chang et al (2006)identified relationships between workplace stressors, coping methods and mentalhealth. They found that high workload was associated with worse mental health,suggesting that excessive workloads need attention from management. Reducingstressors and providing support in balancing priorities could be effectiveinterventions.Dalton et al (2005) proposed three types ofcoping; problem-focused, meaning focused, and emotion focused.
Emotion-focusedcoping attempts to alleviate emotional distress, whereas,problem-focused coping could be viewed as attempting to manage or change theproblem causing the stress (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984). An example of emotion-focused coping mayinclude behaviours such as seeking others’ company or cognitive responses,whereas problem-focused coping include problem-solving activities and seekinginformation (Payne, 1991). A person’s self esteem is enhanced when they feelthey are valued and accepted despite any faults within them.
So it is importantto have a caring social network around.A study done by Ronald E. Smith et al (1994), reporteddifferences in coping between men and women upon being placed under identicalstressors. Women were reported to seek more social support and emotion-focusedcoping, whereas men used more problem-focused coping. This further supports theidea that different people cope in different ways.
Furthermore, theeffectiveness of the coping on alleviating any problems will differ. Whenstress and coping is conceptualised from an ecological perspective, it opens uppossibilities for better targeted and holistic interventions. Sabrin (1970)speaks of the “social” ecology, where through a variety of social roles oneachieves a sense of self-worth and belongingness.In conclusion, the contributions of community psychology inrelation to coping and support have been considerable. While interventions havebeen put in place to help individuals they are still not all necessarily beingaccessed and this is mainly due to individuals being unable to ask for help beit due to fear of being seen as weak or just being afraid to ask. So furtherwork could be done by community psychologists in advising senior roles atworkplaces about ways in which they can reduce work induced stress inemployees.