Did you know that about one in four Americans have a mental illness? That’s right. And with the Covid-19 pandemic, that statistic has grown.
This means there is a high chance some employees in your organization might have a mental illness. In my work co-founding a treatment center that provides counseling for people with mental illness, I’ve found there are some steps employers can take to create better work environments when it comes to mental health.
What does ‘mental illness’ mean?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.”
Over the past few years, mental health has grown to become a topic of significant concern globally. People are now more vocal about mental health, which is a positive thing in my view. However, the consequences of mental illness are often still underestimated in comparison to physical diseases. MORE FOR Youths 24-Year-Old Serial Entrepreneur’s Latest Passion: ‘Chidi Dinos’5 Tips From A Retail Entrepreneur Who Grew An 8-Figure Business Meet Companion: The InsurTech That Is Disrupting The Insurance Industry Leveraging Event-Driven Interactions At Scale
Why is raising mental health awareness in the workplace important?
It’s important to note that although mental illnesses aren’t contagious like the flu, they affect society and workplaces as well. Hence, raising mental health awareness can help us shape a better, more healthy workplace.
Raising awareness can help reduce the stigma around mental illnesses.
As mentioned earlier, mental illness is becoming a more popular topic around the world. Yet, it’s still not widely talked about in many workplaces due to the stigma surrounding it.
Lack of information can promote this stigma further, and one way to counter that is by spreading mental health awareness. As employees become more informed, they may begin to understand that mental illness isn’t a taboo, changing the way it’s talked about.
Increased understanding can help employees be more kind and empathetic toward each other.
Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and psychosis can affect every aspect of someone’s life. Some employees in the workplace may be unaware of the effects. Improving mental health awareness can help these employees better understand the gravity of these illnesses, which could lead to a workplace with more kind and empathetic individuals.
A culture of awareness can give employees the confidence to seek help.
Due to the stigma surrounding mental illness, many employees with mental illnesses may be afraid of seeking help as they don’t want to be labeled a certain way. Raising mental health awareness can give employees the confidence to seek help as they feel they’re not going to be judged for it.
Is raising mental health awareness in the workplace enough?
While openly discussing mental health at the workplace is a big accomplishment, it’s not enough in my view. Mental health demands action with awareness. You can make your employees more aware of mental illness, but as an employer, it’s also important to take concrete steps to create a better workplace. For example:
• Value mental health and well-being as core assets of your organization.
• Support the development of compassionate and effective line management relationships.
• Address any issues that might be causing mental distress to employees.
• Include mental health in your diversity and inclusion strategies.
Supporting Employees With Mental Illnesses
Like physical illnesses, mental illnesses can affect people of any age and background. Some of the most common forms of mental illness are depression and anxiety, which can affect an employee’s performance at work.
As a responsible employer, you should not only work on removing the stigma around mental health but also offer adequate support to employees with mental illness. This can help affected individuals recover more quickly. Routine counseling and the availability of a free-of-cost therapist in the workplace can encourage employees to open up about any issues and manage their mental health more confidently.
Although mental illnesses do not qualify for sick leaves in many workplaces, I’ve found giving an employee a day off when they are having a hard time at work can be helpful in most cases. As a responsible manager, you should also respect your employees’ privacy when they take a day off from work due to mental illness.
Most importantly, try to offer extra support to individuals with mental illness during periods of change. It’s also crucial to remember that every employee is different, and so their progress will likely differ as well.
Employee well-being is important for any business’ success. When an organization becomes proactive in ensuring its employees’ physical and mental well-being, it can lead to a more healthy workplace where everyone wins.