May is Mental Health Awareness Month. According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, one in five people will experience a mental health illness in their lifetime, and two-thirds of those diagnosed will not seek treatment for their mental illness.
Although taking care of your mental health is important on a daily basis, there are many factors that can contribute to a mental illness, such as life challenges, brain chemistry, substance abuse, and feelings of isolation (something so many of us can relate to these past two years).
Employers can help too. A good leader knows that a successful business relies on happy, healthy employees, and it is important to take a look at the role the workplace plays in a person’s mental well-being. A productive job is vital for mental health; it gives a sense of accomplishment, purpose, and connection, while an unhealthy workplace can harm a person’s physical and mental well-being. Issues such as workload imbalance, harassment, and poor work relationships can play a role in depression and anxiety, leading to poor productivity and increased absenteeism in the workplace. With so many Americans affected by a mental illness, it is essential to foster not only a healthy work environment but one that is also open to discussions on mental health issues.
According to Workplacementalhealth.org, here are suggestions from leading employers who have taken action to address stigma:
- Tailor programs/approaches to your company culture and existing strengths. Do what is right for your culture.
- Mention your commitment to leading a behaviorally healthy workplace every time you mention the company’s commitment to its overall culture of health, attracting
and retaining the best talent, being an employer of choice, and valuing its employees and their family members as human beings.
- Train leaders to identify emotional distress and refer to EAP or other behavioral health resources.
- Provide adequate vacation time and consider making it policy that vacation time be taken.
- Offer EAP to family and household members as well as the employee. Connect your education and awareness efforts with specific information about how to access the EAP and reinforce confidentiality.
- Model work/life balance. Have leaders embody concepts and model behavior, paying attention to workload.
- Be welcoming of the need for accommodations. Train managers to respond appropriately and understand their role in supporting employees.
- Ensure that senior leaders routinely include language about emotional well-being when they talk about business issues.
- Consider emotional well-being when you have to make tough business decisions (head count reduction) and include EAP in the planning of such actions.
- Train leaders on responding promptly and constructively to behavioral performance issues.
Download the Working Well toolkit for employers here.
Together, we can help fight stigma, and the millions of people in the U.S. affected by mental illness.