Mental health is one of those issues that we try to just push to the back of our minds because, well, we just don’t want to think about. We don’t want to admit that we, or one of our co-workers, may have a mental health issue that truly needs attention. So many times, we turn the television on and see yet another senseless shooting whether at an entertainment venue or just sitting in our living rooms. Someone went off the deep-end and went crazy with a gun. Then, in the next coming days, we get report after report from “friends” of the shooter who say “oh yes, we knew that he had problems but we didn’t know who to turn it over to”. Or, “when he was in school, the school nurse sent many papers home to his parents urging them to seek medical help for mental health issues”. The parents just figure that he’s just being a boy. Was he?
The following is an article that was written by Syrenna Kononovitch (see Bio below) who is the managing editor of OnlineCounselingPrograms.com:
In promotion of advocacy and awareness, World Mental Health Day is recognized yearly to discuss mental health care around the globe. On October 10th, 2017, organizations and companies across the world, celebrated World Mental Health Day with the theme of “Workplace Mental Health”.
What is mental health-friendly?
A mental health-friendly workplace is described as one that values the health of its employees, both physically and mentally. Does your company:
- Offer programs that support health and wellness of employees?
- Provide Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)?
- Support employees with transitions back to work from treatment or disability leave with?
- Protect employee health information with the utmost confidentiality?
If you cannot confidently answer yes to these questions, it may be time to create a healthier workplace. The World Health Organization (WHO) reviews the World Economic Forum suggestions as the first steps to take in creating a mental health-friendly workplace:
- Reducing risk factors that are related to the workplace and role responsibilities
- Work to develop the positive factors of work and recognize the strengths of employees
- Address all mental health problems, regardless of onset cause
Talking about mental illness in the office is the first step to collaboration, awareness, and crushing of stigma.
Costs of Workplace Mental Health
Presenteeism is one of the largest costs of mental health in the workplace. Employees will come to work with reduced productivity and little attention/focus on tasks. The Workplace Mental Health Promotion Guide names heavy workloads, conflicts in roles and responsibilities, and uncertainty about job status as indicators of higher levels of presenteeism.
Absenteeism costs in the beginning of 2011 to the end of 2012 were at $23 billion in America, resulting from a missed 68 million days of work, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. This was research lead on U.S. workers diagnosed with depression, not accounting for any other mental health concerns.
Moving Forward on Your Mental Health-Friendly Workplaces
To begin, continue, or maintain mental health care and discussion, here are some tips for employers and employees to implement in their workplace.
Tips for Employers1
- Review and Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance: Consider established and increased opportunities for flexible hours, remote work, and care leave to help ease stress of caregivers for those with mental illnesses.
- Combat Stigma: Host open discusses about mental health, educate employees about the symptoms of mental illnesses and how to support others, encourage equality across all levels of management, and teach ways to show empathy.
- Acknowledge and Promote Wellness on Mental Health Awareness Days: Mental health awareness days are great ways to integrate mental health education in the workplace. Send messages company-wide to show and offer support, reminding employees of their options to pursue mental health programs.
- Inform Employees of Programs the Support Mental Health: EAPs have been proven to significantly decrease absenteeism, presenteeism, and reduce overall medical costs. Consider integrating increased rest time or mental health days off.
Tips for Employees1
- Watch What You Say: Making generalizations or passing judgements about different behaviors could be offensive and provoke mental illness stigma. Instead, refrain from using phrases that categorically place a person as a mental illness but rather living with a mental illness. [Ex. “She is bipolar” → “She is living with bipolar disorder”.]
- Ask for Ways to Support Your Colleagues, Don’t Offer Advice That is Unwarranted: Simply asking how to help a co-worker can be the greatest way to show support. However, don’t offer advice on their mental illness that is not sought out directly.
- Just Listen and Show Your Interest: Acknowledging that a co-worker is going through a hard time and that you are there to listen can be both therapeutic and supportive.
- Share Your Story: Educate. Educate. Educate. If you have a mental health concern, consider sharing with your co-workers to break stigma and begin the talk.
Increase mental health awareness in your workplace through education. This can be an important crossroad for both employee’s health and the financial success of employers and employees. By reducing mental health stigmas, increasing available resources and opening up the conversation surrounding mental health, employers and employees can work together in an accepting, comfortable, and profitable environment.
1 Retrieved from World Federation for Mental Health, Mental Health in the Workplace: World Mental Health Day 2017 Report
Author Biography: Syrenna Kononovitch is the managing editor for OnlineCounselingPrograms.com where she creates and organizes supportive content related to professional counseling & other mental health careers and graduate education pathways.
Photo Courtesy of JSciMed Central at Flickr.com