Recently, a close friend shared his secret with me. He confided that he suffered from depression and had been hospitalized for a short time. Although I felt honored that he trusted me with this very personal piece of information, I am disheartened that shame continues to make those with mental health issues feel the need to hide it.
One in five Americans suffers with a mental health condition. My own family has been touched by it, and I know the impact it can have, not only on the individual but on the family as well.
Mental health and the workplace
Employers can play an important role in supporting the mental well-being of their employees. It is certainly in everyone’s best interest. The economic impact of mental health issues is significant. The estimated cost to the global economy is $1 trillion dollars per year in lost productivity.
Mental health action plan
There are steps employers can take to create an environment that supports the mental health and well-being of the workforce.
- Supportive culture
Workplace culture is made up of behaviors, norms and rituals. According to a Mental Health America research report, perceived lack of support and recognition in the workplace contributes to higher levels of workplace stress and isolation, and is strongly correlated with job dissatisfaction. Creating a positive workplace culture, where toxic behavior such as bullying isn’t tolerated, will result in a happier, more productive environment.
- Train managers
Managers are often the eyes and ears of the organization. They play a key role in creating a supportive workplace. Consider offering Mental Health First Aid training for managers. This training creates awareness of mental illnesses and addictions, including risk factors and warning signs. It teaches managers a five-step action plan to help an employee in crisis connect with professional, peer, social, and self-help care.
- Stop the stigma
Stigma is a growing issue. Individuals suffering with mental health conditions are often discriminated against and feel shame. Create a welcoming work environment by having conversations about mental health and providing access to resources such as employee assistance programs and mental health insurance benefits.
- Healthy foods
Research shows that what we eat can impact our mental well-being. Poor diet is a major factor contributing to the epidemic of depression, the top driver of disability for Americans aged 15 to 44. Making healthy food options available in the workplace can encourage healthy eating habits.
- Don’t forget home-based workers
Home-based workers may need additional encouragement to stay connected. One of the most common hazards of working from home is the feeling of isolation. Take the extra step to reach out to this population and help them feel included.
May is Mental Health Awareness month. This is a great time to shine a light on the topic of mental health and show we care. It’s important to continue this awareness throughout the year by creating workplaces where everyone’s mental well-being is valued and supported.