Mental Health Awareness Month: How Workplace Wellness Can Improve Mental Health
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an opportunity for people and organizations to raise awareness that mental health is something everyone should care about. And one of the biggest factors affecting the mental health of Americans is the workplace. With the number of people managing daily symptoms of a mental illness increasing by the year, stress, burnout, and lack of work-life balance are on the rise, leading to decreased mental health both in the workplace and at home.
More than ever, employees agree that mental health should be a priority to their employers, and therefore they seek out opportunities with organizations that support and encourage mental health wellness and a healthy work-life balance. In fact, according to a recent report, 85% of workers identified mental and emotional health benefits as a consideration when evaluating a new job opportunity.
A positive work environment and healthy work-life balance can support employees’ mental health efforts and contribute overall to their lives. Here, we’ll dive deeper into mental health in the workplace, and how organizations can improve the mental health and lives of their employees through policies, education and training, and additional resources.
Mental Health & The Workplace: By-The-Numbers
To better understand the importance of mental health – and its far-reaching impact – it’s important to know the facts. Though exhaustive, this list from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Mental Health America, and the 2019 Workforce Attitudes Towards Behavioral Health Report only scratches the surface.
Did you know …
… 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. – or 43.8 million people per year – experience a mental health condition?
… of that 43.8 million, only 41% of adults and 50% of children aged 8-15 with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year?
…depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease?
… 83% of workers experience stress at least once a week, with 16% reporting ‘extreme stress,’ defined as experiencing stress daily?
…over 75% of workers are afraid of getting punished for taking a day off to focus on their mental health?
… depression and anxiety cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion per year – and $193 billion in the U.S. – in lost productivity?
… that a negative working environment may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity?
… that workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains?
Creating Workplace Wellness
So, how does an organization support their employees’ mental health wellness in the office? And why should employers even care in the first place? In addition to taking a toll on workers’ health, relationships and lifestyles, a lack of mental health awareness in the workplace can also lead to massive financial losses, high turnover rates, and decreased productivity.
And given that employees spend a large portion of their day – and even lifetime – at work, it’s important that organizations recognize the impact that a healthy – or unhealthy – work environment can have on its employees.
5 Ways to Create a Mentally Healthier Workplace
1. Healthy Work-Life Balance
Like everything else in life, balance is the key to feeling less stressed and overwhelmed at the workplace. Setting aside time for family, friends, hobbies, interests, and community leaves employees feeling refreshed and re-energized when turning their attention back to projects and tasks at the office.
2. Health, Including Mental Health, Benefits
With fewer than 50% of adults with mental health conditions seeking treatment, comprehensive health benefits that include coverage for mental health services are more critical than ever before. Normalizing mental health coverage for employees also helps reduce the stigma surrounding treatment.
3. Focus on Health and Wellness in the Workplace
More and more, employers are seeing the connection between a healthy workforce and a successful business. Encouraging and supporting employees to participate in health and wellness activities such as step challenges, water challenges, and fitness activities leads not only to increased physical health, but increased mental health, engagement, and productivity.
4. Education and Training
Creating a culture that supports the training and development of employees not only shows a company’s dedication to educating its employees, but it also shows that the company cares about their overall happiness at work. And employees who feel cared for by their employers are productive, engaged, and healthy employees.
5. Purpose and Accountability
Employees that feel empowered, accountable, and valued at work approach their jobs with a sense of duty and purpose. Without significant meaning or involvement, employees are less likely to be positive or productive in the workplace, which can lead to decreased mental health.
Mental Health Resources
NAMI suggests that just as with any other health crisis, it’s important to address mental health quickly and effectively. With mental health conditions, crises can be difficult to predict because there are often no warning signs. So, even when treatment plans have been followed and mental health professionals are involved, unpredictability is central to mental illness.
Unlike other health emergencies, people experiencing mental health crises often don’t receive instructions or materials on what to expect after the crisis. As such, NAMI created a crisis guide so people experiencing mental health emergencies and their loved ones can have the answers and information they need when they need it in order to:
- Understand mental health crises
- Prepare for a crisis
- Know what to do during a crisis
- Know what to do following a crisis
- Create a sample crisis plan
Vector Solutions Cares
For mental-health impacting subjects that relate to the workplace, like sexual harassment, active shooter incidents, business ethics, and more, Vector Solutions offers hand-picked courses that every employee should take – regardless of role or industry.
Our award-winning workplace safety training courses offer employees information critical for keeping workplaces safer, healthier and more secure.
A few essential workplace training topics include:
- Violence Prevention and Active Shooter
- Mental Wellness
- Sexual Harassment Prevention
- Financial Wellness
- Cybersecurity Awareness
- Time Management and Prioritization
- Slip and Fall Prevention
- Email Communication
- Social Media Best Practices
- Drugs and Alcohol
Mental Health Takes A Village
Mental health isn’t – and shouldn’t be – a solitary, individual experience; it’s greater than the sum of its parts – and requires a collective, communal understanding, approach and resolve. What affects one affects us all, so Mental Health Awareness Month serves to remind us that we’re all in this together and that together, we can raise awareness, support and advocacy for a better today and healthier, happier tomorrow.