Cybersecurity, Emerging Issues in Security, Facility Security, Policies and Training

How Poor Mental Health Can Lead to Bad Security Systems Management

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but a career in security requires a high level of mental focus and alertness all year long. Professionals who are in charge of managing surveillance and security systems bear a lot of responsibility. They are responsible for protecting the safety and security of people, places, and information from threats. They prevent breaches of information and invasion of privacy. To do all this to the best of their ability, they need to have a clear mind to exercise good judgment, quick reaction time, and sharp intuition.

Bearing such responsibilities can be quite stressful, and even the most resilient and qualified professionals are affected by the pressure of their jobs. Letting one’s guard down and failing to keep security threats at bay can have serious consequences. Security professionals are armed with certifications, training, and technology, but they also need to be in peak mental health to be able to cope with occupational stress and fulfill their responsibilities effectively and efficiently. If emotional well-being is left unchecked, it may lead to issues such as burnout, chronic stress, and behavioral addictions.

Burnout in the Security Workforce

People who work in security are human just like everyone else. While their jobs often require that they maintain a high threshold for pressure, they have their limits and can suffer from mental stress and burnout. When anyone gets overwhelmed by stress or overworked to the point of exhaustion, it can negatively impact their job performance and cause them to make grave errors. Compromised performance and burnout adversely affect the clients who depend on security systems and personnel, and erode security workers’ confidence in what they are trained to do. 

Occupational Stress and Mental Health

Poor mental health caused by stress, inadequate sleep, malnutrition, and lack of time off can build up and lead to maladaptive coping skills and unhealthy habits. These can manifest into substance use disorders and behavioral addictions, such as excessive gambling, gaming, or shopping. People who are overburdened by their work also turn to sex, porn, and internet addictions, which greatly interfere with mental health and emotional resilience. Behavioral addictions adversely affect personal lives as well as job performance, and can get progressively worse the longer they persist. The worse they become, the harder it becomes to ignore them or prevent others from noticing.

Stigmatization of Mental Health

Unfortunately, some security professionals are prone to the belief that seeking therapy and other means of mental health support can jeopardize their security clearances and jobs. The stigmatization of mental health disorders continues to deter many people from getting help. In some industries and occupations, there is a common fear that being labeled or diagnosed with a mental disorder can ruin a career in security and surveillance, or prevent opportunities for promotions and career advancement. 

Employers can do their part to debunk misconceptions and stigmas by encouraging employees to seek support, reassuring them that they are protected by confidentiality, and providing them with access to internal or external resources such as counseling services. 

Maintaining Work-Life Balance for Security Professionals

Security personnel can be affected by the emotional and mental strain of long hours and the constant mental focus that surveillance and protection duties require. It is essential that they get consistent and adequate time off in between shifts to recharge and decompress from the pressures of work. Having a reasonable and balanced schedule is key to maintaining a work-life balance. On days off, employees should make time for physical activities that can help to alleviate stress and stabilize moods. Additionally, employees shouldn’t be encouraged to work overtime on a consistent basis. Creating boundaries between work and home life is essential, and both employee and employer must uphold these boundaries.

Getting Treatment tor Mental Health Issues

It is very important to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental disorders such as addiction, anxiety, and depression, and to address these issues as early as possible. Treatment approaches that include either or both prescription medication and cognitive behavioral therapy can help with identifying emotional triggers and managing work-related stress. 

Talk therapy is also highly beneficial for mental health and can help to resolve emotional issues related to occupational stress or even trauma. Counseling services are available in person or virtually through telehealth platforms, and are often covered by most health insurance plans. Some mental health experts identify occupations that are at high and yet underestimated risk for mental health issues. For example, IT security is often undervalued as a profession and can be mentally taxing. Therapy for IT security staff and access to other mental health resources should be mainstreamed and prioritized to help employees deal with depression and anxiety that may be related to their jobs. 

Prioritizing Mental Health for Optimal Security Management

Those who are responsible for protecting the lives, property, and information of others need the resources to maintain high standards of health. Their jobs require them to think clearly and make decisions efficiently, and this makes mental wellness a priority. Security employees and professionals instill more trust in their customers when they are able to perform their jobs capably and professionally. The impression of professionalism and capability is reflected in the consistent maintenance of mental and physical well-being.

Tanya Sherman is a content specialist for AddictionResource.net, a resource for people with addictions or mental health disorders and their loved ones to learn about how addiction affects the brain and body, as well as treatment options for long-term recovery.