Mental health is just as important as physical health, yet it is often overlooked in the workplace. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, 1 in 5 American adults suffers from a mental illness. That means your organization will likely have employees dealing with mental health issues, whether they are open about it.
Not just that, but according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the CEOs Against Stigma I am signed on to, depression and anxiety also cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. Meanwhile, 8 in 10 workers with a mental health condition say shame and stigma prevent them from seeking treatment, and just 57% of employees with symptoms of major depression said they had received mental health treatment in the previous 12 months.
Workplace stress can lead to burnout, causing mental health issues.
Even when diagnosed clinical mental illness is not present, workplace stress and the resulting burnout it causes can have a significant effect on the mental health of workers. This, in turn, becomes a burden that falls on the shoulders of the employer or organization to carry.
Take a human-centered, empathetic approach to your mental health strategy.
The issue of mental health and wellness is complex without a one-size-fits-all solution. But this is why organizations must construct a mental health strategy that’s both proactive and preventative and puts the needs of its workers front and center.
A mental health strategy is essential for two reasons. First, it shows that your company cares about its employees and their well-being. Empathetic leadership in this area can have a positive effect overall on workplace culture. When workers know they are valued and cared for, it raises morale.
Second, it can help reduce the stigma around mental health issues. As common as it is for adults to have trouble with mental health and stress, they often hesitate to seek help or treatment for fear of how those around them may perceive them. When a company includes mental health and stress reduction as an aspect of company culture, employees are more likely to seek the support they need.
Listen to employees and create a safe space before anything.
There are many ways to build a mental health strategy for your company. But before implementing any new policies or systems, it can be helpful to assess the needs of employees first. An anonymous survey can be a valuable tool to determine where everyone stands regarding stress level, job satisfaction, and conflicts with others. This can also be a safe place for employees to state their preferences regarding communication, management styles, etc.
Make information about mental health services and benefits easy to access.
Knowing the specific needs of employees is a good starting point for determining which services or programs can be made available. Employees need to know that they have access to appropriate mental health services should they need them. Some examples can include, but are not limited to:
- In-house stress management training
- Providing medical benefits that cover mental health services
- Access to an Employee Assistance Program
- Ensuring access to substance abuse disorder treatments or programs
Minimize the stigma against accessing treatment by proactively communicating about available options to make it less difficult.
In addition to these services, employees should know that their support needs can be communicated simply, proactively, and without judgment. They should be confident that they will be accommodated whenever it is reasonably possible to do so. And information to access treatment should be readily available to everyone in the organization.
It should be the priority of every employer and manager to be intentional about making these services known and accessible to everyone and to create a workplace environment that values personal well-being and satisfaction. Employees should feel free to avail themselves of any resources they might need without fear of reproach from management or co-workers.
Consider telehealth as an added benefit that can make it easier for employees to access treatment.
Consider services like Airapy Therapy Concierge—a personalized experience for finding a therapist within your employees' preferences, budget, or health insurance. Information for employers can be found here.
Another service to consider is Teledoc health for organizations—this offers easy access to high-quality mental health providers, with self-guided programs between sessions to build resiliency. More information about their mental health services here.
There are many more ways to start building a mental health strategy for your organization. If you’d like to learn more about how to go beyond employee wellness for a more holistic employee well-being strategy, register for free upcoming HR webinars for more ideas and information.