Oftentimes in a meeting we might hear “take care of your mental health,” usually coming from leadership. A manager might suggest you “go home and relax” as an effort to protect your mental health. The problem is if there is a true mental health issue, “relaxing” isn’t going to solve it. Going home and taking a bath isn’t going to improve your mental health. Being aware that mental health needs to be taken care of is a great first step, but managers also need to know how they can contribute to mental wellness in the workplace.
Mental illness is as real as physical illness, and it can affect a workplace the same amount or even more. Mental and physical illness are different, but they should not be treated as differently as they are in the workplace. If you want to raise awareness for mental illness, include it as part of your diversity, equity, and inclusion training. This will let your employees know you are open to giving them support they need so they can be their best selves. For those employees not dealing with mental illness, making them aware can increase their empathy for their coworkers, making the culture more positive and supportive.
While society seems more aware of mental health, it isn’t making a difference. According to the World Health Organization, “the increased attention given to mental health in recent years has yet to result in a scale-up of quality mental services that is aligned with needs.” Companies are creating programs and policies surrounding mental health, but there is a lack of investment in the human and financial resources needed to make a positive impact.
Raising awareness for mental health to remove the stigma is great, but it isn’t enough to make a difference to your employees. There are a myriad of ways to support your employees with mental illness. Forbes suggests, “[r]outine 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.” Workplaces offering these services are taking an active role in combating mental illness. In addition to these supports, ensure your employees privacy when they are suffering from mental illness. This will make them more willing to use the services and get the help they need.
If including a workplace therapist seems extreme, you might want to understand the benefits. A workplace therapist can have a positive impact not only on employee well-being, but also their job performance. According to a 2017 study concerning workplace therapists published in the ZENITH International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, “[f]rom the results it was evident that there was a positive relationship between workplace counseling and its impact on the psychological well-being of employees which means that if there is effective workplace counseling, the performance and overall well-being of the employees can improve significantly.” The job performance impact is due to employees feeling better. When people feel better, that affects every aspect of their lives, including how they do their job.
Taking the baby step of raising mental health awareness in your organization is going to make an impact, but if you want to make a huge difference in the well being of your employees, invest in services that will make a difference. When so many people are looking for employees right now, potential employees are looking for forward-thinking organizations with these types of services.
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