Did you know that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental illness in a given year? As many of us recognize, many mental health issues fly under the radar as a result of the stigma that surrounds them.
Those who are silently affected by mental illness can experience issues and limitations everywhere – especially in potentially stressful environments like the workplace. So while we continue to fight against this stigma, we encourage employers to take measures to care for the mental health of their employees.
Beyond its negative effects on individuals, failing to address mental health issues in the workplace is bad for business. Mental illness is the number one cause of disability leave for American business today, and untreated mental illness costs the U.S. more than $105 billion in lost productivity each year.
Luckily, there are ways in which companies can provide support to their employees – here are a few of them:
Address mental health openly & honestly
This might be the most important thing for companies (and individuals!) to do when it comes to mental health. Because of the stigma around mental health issues, it’s difficult to discuss and address openly and honestly, and it means that a large number of cases go undiagnosed and untreated. But in reality, mental illnesses are common in the United States, and we aren’t helping anyone by staying quiet about it.
Workplace environments can be stressful, and stress can be a trigger for mental health issues. Instead of brushing it under the rug, we need to talk about it and open up a dialogue about how workplaces can help mitigate that stress, support their employees, and encourage them to take care of themselves.
If you are unsure about how to talk to your employees or coworkers who you think may be struggling, here are some tips.
Include comprehensive mental health care in your benefits package
Given how prevalent mental health issues are these days, it just makes sense for employers to offer mental health care benefits that are as comprehensive as possible. As of 2010, the Affordable Care Act has provided one of the largest expansions of mental health coverage in generations, requiring businesses to include mental health care in their benefits packages in some capacity. That said, the level of mental health care that is covered is rarely comprehensive or long-term.
Helping employees get access to the mental health care that they need may increase costs upfront, but early detection and treatment of mental illness can also prevent crises and reduce health care costs later on. Encourage employees to recognize signs of anxiety and depression in themselves, and then seek professional help that is subsidized by the health care plan that you offer.
Implement an employee wellness program
One great way companies can prioritize their employees’ mental health is internally, through employee wellness programs. Until recently, many of these programs were centered on discounted gym memberships that employees could opt to use. While encouraging individuals to stay active in this way definitely has positive mental health effects, there are further steps that employers can take to support their workers’ mental health.
For example, employers can actively encourage employees to take breaks throughout the day, whether it be a longer lunch period or several smaller breaks. Or they can provide yoga, massage or meditation at particularly stressful times of the year, or at regular intervals. Another option would be to offer employees the opportunity to work remotely, as needed. Before making any decisions, think about the specific individuals you work with, and what you think would be most beneficial to them. You could even do a survey to determine what their needs are and how you can meet them.
Know of a business that is taking action to support its employees’ mental health? Tell us about them and what they’re doing! Here’s how:
If you want to join the conversation around mental health in general, we put together a list of some incredible digital resources to help you get started.