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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half the people in the United States will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives, and one in five Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.  With these statistics, it’s not surprising that mental health has a significant impact on the workplace.  In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental illnesses like depression and anxiety cost the global economy over a trillion dollars per year in lost productivity.

Unfortunately, disorders like anxiety and depression often go undetected for months or years.  Unlike physical illnesses, mental health issues are more challenging to pinpoint.

Even though mental illness can often be a taboo topic, especially in the workplace, it appears that employees want their employer to champion mental well-being.

 

Mental Health Issues Affect Businesses and Their Employees

 

Poor mental health can negatively affect an employee’s:

  • Job performance and productivity.
  • Engagement with their work.
  • Communication with coworkers.
  • Physical capability and daily functioning.

 

Mental illnesses such as depression are associated with higher rates of disability and unemployment.

  • Depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time and reduces cognitive performance by about 35% of the time.
  • Only 57% of employees who report moderate depression and 40% of those who report severe depression receive treatment to control depression symptoms.

 

How Employers Can Promote Mental Health in the Workplace

  • Promote a healthy, balanced approach to performance metrics.
  • Encourage a healthy work-life balance.
  • Offer health insurance with no or low out-of-pocket costs for depression medications and counseling.
  • Increase awareness by giving employees access to education and resources from national organizations like the American Psychiatric AssociationMental Health AmericaNational Alliance on Mental Illness, and more.
  • Host seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques, like mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation, to help employees reduce anxiety and stress and improve focus and motivation.
  • Create and maintain dedicated, quiet spaces for relaxation activities that can be utilized during breaks, or when employees need to take a moment to breathe.
  • Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions about issues that affect job stress.
  • Make reasonable accommodations when possible.

 

Your employees, particularly those with leadership roles, can also help you make mental health awareness a normal part of your workplace conversations.  People should feel safe to talk about their mental state and to seek accommodations and assistance as needed.  No one should have to worry about discrimination.  Make sure managers understand if information about an employee is shared with them, it should be treated as confidential and only re-shared on a need-to-know basis.

 

Ultimately, it’s up to individuals to manage their mental health and get any care they need.  Employers, however, can make it much easier and less stressful for their employees to attend to these matters by giving them the time, resources, and support to improve and sustain their mental health.