We’re waking up everyday in an increasingly rage-filled world, dealing with distractions and diseases and deadlines. We spend a premium of our waking hours working, and expect our personal lives to stay out of it. But that’s not how brains work.
In the United States, more than 3 out of 4 people now show moderate to severe symptoms of a mental health condition, and the impact is increasingly felt in the workplace. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, depressive symptoms have increased about 28% worldwide, to 246 million people, as anxiety disorders grew by 25%, affecting 374 million. In its screenings, Mental Health America has witnessed a substantial increase in people experiencing anxiety, depression, psychosis, loneliness, and other mental health concerns. (source: MHA National)
Mental health has long been stigmatized and neglected in many workplaces, while mental health disorders are steadily on the rise. But in recent years there has been a growing recognition of the importance of promoting positive mental health in the workplace, which supports the bottom line, not just the team. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), depression causes an estimated 200 million lost workdays each year at the cost of $17 billion to $44 billion to employers. Half of employees with depression are untreated. Depression impacts the rate of absenteeism, cause of disabilities, loss of productivity, and climate in the workplace. (source)
When employees are supported in maintaining good mental health, they are better able to contribute to their work and are more likely to feel satisfied and fulfilled in their roles. If you’ve never struggled with mental health (or if you have), it can be challenging to prioritize company culture in this way, but the ROI is worth it. Here are a few ways to get started.
1. Promote kindness and empathy. It’s a powerful way to support good mental health in the workplace. When employees feel valued, heard, and understood, they are more likely to be productive, work collaboratively, and feel motivated. Encouraging regular check-ins with colleagues, setting up employee assistance programs, and offering opportunities for team building exercises can foster a culture of kindness and empathy.
If the term “give them grace” comes up in workplace conversations from time to time, consider putting your expectations and policies in writing. Grace is great, but it’s no replacement for good HR.
2. Provide resources and tools for employees to take care of their mental health. Offering access to mental health professionals, providing flexible work hours, and promoting work-life balance all contribute to better mental health outcomes for employees. There are many apps and tools available that can help individuals manage stress, anxiety, ADHD and other mental health concerns.
For example, Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm are three popular mindfulness apps that offer guided meditations and stress management techniques. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a service that provides confidential counseling and referral services to employees and their families. Programs like exercise classes, nutrition counseling, and other wellness services can also be incredibly beneficial. You can even support your employees’ mental health with video games, courtesy of innovative developers like deepwelldtx.com.
3. It’s important to foster a culture of openness and acceptance when it comes to mental health. Encouraging employees to talk openly about their mental health concerns and providing support and resources can reduce the stigma around mental health and encourage employees to seek help when they need it.
It’s also right to recognize the rising mental health concerns about ADHD and substance abuse disorders. Both have grown exponentially since COVID-19 began, but still too often go undiagnosed and untreated because of stigmas surrounding them. MHA reports that a vast majority of individuals with a substance use disorder in the U.S. are not receiving treatment at all. (source)
4. Invest in diversity, equity and inclusion. People of color struggle at disparate levels with mental health than their white counterparts. In the MHA’s May report, rates of suicidal ideation for all BIPOC screeners (38%) were higher than rates for white screeners (33%). And statistics show youth, Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQIA+ populations continuing to struggle with their mental health overall (source).
“Mental health is important for everyone. However, as with so many other disparities in our society like wealth and education, people of the global majority can experience disproportionately poorer mental health than their white counterparts...” (medium)
5. Download the toolkit of resources compiled by Mental Health America for Mental Health Awareness Month (https://mhanational.org/mental-health-month) for more information.
Promoting good mental health in the workplace benefits not only the individual employees, but also the organization as a whole. By prioritizing kindness, providing resources and tools and fostering a culture of openness and inclusivity, you can support your employees’ mental health and contribute to a more positive and productive work environment. No matter what your business or industry may be, if you have employees, you’re in the people business.
Everyone plays an important role in promoting good mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. Text MHA to 741741 to connect with a trained Crisis Counselor from Crisis Text Line. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.