Travailing The Landscape of Workplace Mental Health

In the world’s current climate, there has been more than enough hardship, loss, suffering, grief, and stress to go around. This has resulted in the number of people that suffer from some form of mental illness growing higher and higher each day. A shocking statistic is that  20% or 1 in every 5 American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year. The reason this fact is so surprising is because of the massive stigmas that surround mental health. Stigmas, or false beliefs, around having a mental illness can cause substantial problems that can last years and in some cases a lifetime. 

When examining the factors that greatly contribute to the development of mental illness, one that must be inspected is a person’s occupation and the pressures of employment. Careers/jobs provide the necessary funds to sustain a person’s life, but they can also come with a sizable price tag on a person’s mental and physical well-being. According to recent studies, the average person spends roughly one-third of their life at work. This means that the average person spends more of their life at work than at any other solitary activity in their life. With that being said, it would make sense that your office and the people you work with would be the group of people that know you the best and that you are able to safely address your issues with them, but in reality, this is the one place where most people will never open up about all that they really have going on out of fear. 

As stated above, most people don’t discuss things such as mental health & illness due to the large stigmas that surround the topic. No one wants to be labeled as loony, crazy, or unstable. People are afraid of being judged because they fear that it could very well lead to them losing their job or damaging relationships with both current and future coworkers/employers. 

It is not only a losing situation for the employee but also for the employer. 85% of employees have a mental health condition that is currently undiagnosed or untreated. When employees are under large loads of stress and are greatly suffering from poor mental health their productivity and performance suffer, they become less engaged with the work, communication with coworkers lessens, and their physical capability and daily functioning decline. If you’ve ever worked in management then you know that these are all issues that could very well result in an employee being fired, should they continue on for long periods of time without ever being addressed. 

We are far past the time where employers should view employees as a total person and not just the piece that they see every day at work. This means that their life outside of work is cared about just as much as their hours on the clock are. Not only does this make employees feel like they matter, but it can also help employers reduce health care costs for their businesses and employees.

Whether you are an employee, management, or ownership there are things that you yourself can start doing today to help create the much-needed solution to this issue. For a few possible steps that you can take, refer to the list below and feel free to visit the sites listed in the resources below.

Action Steps For Employers:
  • Make mental health self-assessment tools available to all employees.
  • Offer free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression from a qualified mental health professional, followed by directed feedback and clinical referral when appropriate.
  • Offer health insurance with no or low out-of-pocket costs for depression medications and mental health counseling.
  • Provide free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling, or self-management programs.
  • Distribute materials, such as brochures, flyers, and videos, to all employees about the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and opportunities for treatment.
  • Host seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques, like mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation, to help employees reduce anxiety and stress and improve focus and motivation.
  • Create and maintain dedicated, quiet spaces for relaxation activities.
  • Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members and encourage them to seek help from qualified mental health professionals.
  • Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions about issues that affect job stress.
Employees can:
  • Encourage employers to offer mental health and stress management education and programs that meet their needs and interests, if they are not already in place.
  • Participate in employer-sponsored programs and activities to learn skills and get the support they need to improve their mental health.
  • Serve as dedicated wellness champions and participate in training on topics such as financial planning and how to manage unacceptable behaviors and attitudes in the workplace as a way to help others, when appropriate.
  • Share personal experiences with others to help reduce stigma, when appropriate.
  • Be open-minded about the experiences and feelings of colleagues. Respond with empathy, offer peer support, and encourage others to seek help.
  • Adopt behaviors that promote stress management and mental health.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • Take part in activities that promote stress management and relaxation, such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or tai chi.
  • Build and nurture real-life, face-to-face social connections.
  • Take the time to reflect on positive experiences and express happiness and gratitude.
  • Set and work toward personal, wellness, and work-related goals and ask for help when it is needed.

 

Resources:

http://workplacementalhealth.org/

https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/workplace-health/mental-health/index.html

https://namipierce.org/why-employers-need-to-talk-about-mental-illness-in-the-workplace/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/onemind/2020/09/03/mental-health-in-the-workplace-a-look-at-leaders-top-priorities/?sh=2dd3bce51e15

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/mental-health-problems-in-the-workplace

 

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OJ Montgomery

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