Mental Health: Should It Matter To Your Employer?
“Leave it (your home life) at the door” is something many employees are told. Regardless of what happens before you get to work, what stressors you are encountering, or your mood, you are expected to put a smile on your face and get the job done. But what happens when you are experiencing mental health symptoms? How do you heal and move forward if you are ignoring your thoughts, feelings and emotions while you are at work?
Each year, in the United States, 43.8 million adults experience mental illness. Mental Health America reports that 90% of employees agree that their mental health issues spill over into their professional lives, directly impacting their job performance. The impact mental health issues on an organization includes increased absenteeism, lowered productivity, safety risks, employee turnover and more. This correlation shows that employee mental health and wellness directly impacts the bottom line of businesses and organizations throughout the country. Unfortunately, because discussion of mental health is still taboo in the workplace, many of these employees don’t seek treatment, suffer immensely, and unintentionally decrease productivity.
Currently, less than half of working Americans reported that their organization supports the well-being of its employees. Many organizations are looking towards employee assistance programs (EAP) to change this way of thinking and support their employees’ mental health. FamilyMeans EAP coordinator Diane Cragoe says “Employee assistance programs are a benefit provided by employers who recognize the importance of supporting the wellbeing of their employees. FamilyMeans offers a comprehensive EAP which includes counseling & therapy, financial solutions and caregiving & aging services. Employers who offer EAP’s are providing encouragement to address mental health symptoms and seek support for life’s challenges. They recognize happier, healthier individuals are more focused and therefore, more productive employees.”
Organizations can take the first steps to supporting their employee mental health by following these simple steps;
- Remove the stigma surrounding mental illness: Address mental health symptoms on a general scale, showing your employees they are not alone and it is ok to seek support. EAP materials are helpful in showing facts and resources.
- Create an easy way to get help: Post EAP support phone numbers in locations employees frequent such as the breakroom or by the water fountain. Regularly discuss where to get help and find resources.
- Recognize symptoms of mental illness or distress: Managers and Human Resource professionals should recognize the signs of mental illness but remember that it is not their role to diagnose or make assumptions regarding their employees’ mental health. Signs of mental illness can include, personality changes, inability to cope with problems, depression or apathy, dramatic changes in eating or sleeping, appearing emotionless and working slowing or missing deadlines.
Successful business owners do not expect their employees to “leave it at the door” but instead encourage them to work through challenging personal circumstances so they are happy, healthy individuals and productive employees.