May 5, 2021

How to Make Mental Health a Priority in Your Workplace


Our mental well-being affects every aspect of our lives. From personal relationships to job performance, mental health influences the way we think and feel, as well as the decisions we make. According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year. Because millions of Americans are part of the U.S. labor force, employers have a valuable opportunity to increase knowledge of mental health issues and develop resources to support those who experience them.

May is Mental Health Awareness month, which is the perfect time for employers to strengthen their efforts to foster positive mental health. Here are some ways employers can make mental health a priority in their organization.

Know what to look for.
Recognizing the signs of mental health issues is the first step to supporting employees who suffer from them. Some signs of mental health outlined by the Mayo Clinic include:

  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Excessive anger, hostility, or violence
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Severe mood changes
  • Trouble relating to situations and people
  • Decreased productivity
  • Detachment from reality

Open the lines of communication.
Encourage managers and immediate supervisors to check in with employees often. This opens the door for employees who are reluctant to ask for help and gives them the opportunity to discuss any challenges they are facing. Incorporate mental health education into manager training to help them better facilitate a supportive culture. Areas of concentration include basic understanding of mental illness, effective communication, and conflict resolution.

Encourage co-worker support.
Employees may not always feel comfortable speaking with their superiors and often feel more connected with their peers. Establishing peer support groups gives employees a platform to talk with the people who understand the challenges they face each day and the resulting associated issues. Employers should also educate all staff members on identifying and dealing with mental health issues.

Help them manage their schedules.
Unpredictable schedules are often not only difficult for employees to manage, but they can also compound stress – an underlying factor to anxiety and depression, which also can also exacerbate substance abuse issues. Offering flexible scheduling options helps employees balance work and personal obligations. Posting schedules out in advance and giving employees access to their schedules via online employee scheduling software also provides stability, which can alleviate anxiety.

Provide resources.
Employers can’t control whether employees seek professional assistance when they need it but offering benefit plans that include mental health coverage shows employees they are supported in doing so. Some companies offer additional resources to promote mental wellbeing such as reduced cost or free access to virtual or in-person counseling and physical fitness sessions. Employee Assistance Programs provide resources such as articles, videos, and apps that cover a variety of mental health issues.

Diminish the stigma.
Individuals are often reluctant to share mental health issues with employers due to the stigma associated with doing so. Many employees fear that they will be passed over for promotions or moved to a different department after disclosing a mental health problem or seeking help. These beliefs can increase anxiety and lead to further emotional stress or isolation. Encourage employees to discuss mental health concerns and involve them in the coping and resolution process. This reduces anxiety and fosters mutual trust.

Employers play a critical role in establishing a positive culture and promoting good mental health. There is no more opportune time than Mental Health Awareness Month for employers to make mental health a priority in their organization.

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