Why Employers Need to Talk About Mental Health in the Workplace

Why Employers Need to Talk About Mental Health in the Workplace

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Last year, The Society For Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that 61% of workers said their productivity was affected by their mental health, and 30% noted that their work environment contributed to their symptoms. You can bet more people are struggling with mental health challenges during the pandemic. 

Unfortunately, many people live in the shadows because of the stigma associated with mental illness and mental health issues. Often, shame and fear of breach of confidence restrain workers from discussing their mental health with supervisors or co-workers. 

As an employer, you have a golden opportunity to create a conscientious and empathetic work environment. Note that this post does not suggest that you treat the mental health of your employees, as that is the job of behavioral health professionals. 

Creating a Culture of Acceptance

Educating employees about mental health creates a more accepting culture. But before that, you, as a business owner, should have a clear strategy for how to approach the subject. 

Because there are so many potential mental health scenarios, human resources can help provide a clear understanding of issues such as OCD, anxiety, panic disorders, post-traumatic issues and depression. When employees learn collectively about the scope of mental health, you can create a culture of acceptance. 

Ensure Confidentiality 

Creating a standing invitation for your employees to share their struggles with you will likely create a safe environment. Remember, any information that employees share with you must remain confidential, unless an individual expresses intent to harm themselves or others. Per SHRM:

“If an employee appears to be planning to take action immediately, local emergency authorities should be contacted, since employers usually are not qualified to handle such a situation directly. If there are doubts as to whether the threat is immediate, the HR professional should contact local services, such as an employee assistance program, suicide hotline or hospital. Given the risks of failing to take action, it is best to seek professional assistance as soon as possible.”

Increase Employee Retention

A company culture that promotes mental wellness can help encourage employees to stay. Often people who feel their “secret” has been discovered leave good jobs to avoid embarrassment. Employee retention and talent recruitment can improve with a few human resources tactics including:

  • Adding mental health programs to your benefits
  • Including sensitivity training as an important element of your company culture
  • Including therapies and treatment coverage to your benefits
  • Creating transparent policies to support mental health conditions

Health insurance typically covers mental health services, which you can and should emphasize to your employees, as well as helping them understand their coverage. There are several resources to find a therapist, starting with directories provided by insurance companies and Psychology Today (select your geographical area).

Less Stress Means More Production

From a business standpoint, mental wellness helps people remain productive members of the team. The stress of living with mental illness, or even work stress which contributes to mental illness, has overarching negative impacts both in the workplace and at home. 

Mental illness poses a threat to each and every person. When you accept this, you can help change the stigma of mental illness in the workplace. Your business can decrease feelings of social isolation by creating a workplace where it is safe to discuss mental health. You can create a more inclusive environment where acceptance, tolerance, and support encourage meaningful connections and nurture mental healing.

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