Designing programs, policies and benefits that take a proactive approach to maintaining employees’ mental health and wellness has not always been a priority among organizations. In fact, discussing mental health in the workplace was even considered taboo; however, with cultural norms changing and the acceptance of work-life integration more commonplace, employees’ wellbeing is now an evergreen issue among executive management and Human Resources leaders. Why?
The truth is millions of Americans across all demographics and career stages have mental health challenges that range in severity and are still rockstar employees.
FORTUNE magazine gathered some interesting statistics from: the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), the American Psychological Association (APA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) for a thoughtful feature article published in 2017 sharing that:
- 1 in 5 (or 43.8 million) adults experience mental illness in a given year.
- 1 in 25 (or 10 million) adults experience a serious mental illness.
- 1 in 100 (or 2.4 million) live with schizophrenia.
- 2.6% (or 6.1 million) of Americans have bipolar disorder.
- 6.9% (or 16 million) suffer from severe depression.
- 18.1% (or 42 million) live with an anxiety disorder.
- 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness.
- Only 41% of adults with a mental health condition received help and less than 50% of children 8-15 received mental health services.
- Only 36.9% of those suffering from anxiety receive treatment.
- Less than 20% of Americans with moderate depressive symptoms sought help from a medical professional.
- And 4% of young adults with self-reported mental health needs forego care.
Shocked? It’s more common than you think.Your employees and their family members are dealing with these kinds of health concerns right now.The face of mental health is not a one size fits all. Many people are dealing with it in silence.
Now that we know, we need to do a better job of normalizing the discussion around mental health in our organizations and providing professionally-led training for managers on how to appropriately address mental health issues with employees who choose to come forward (or don’t) while staying in compliance. Many of us were trained that there are things we “don’t want to know” as employers, but in order for us to deal with the realities facing our teams and the workforce in general, we need to change the paradigm to teach leaders how to talk with employees and our HR teams to design policies and processes that are current and reflect your organizations values throughout the employee lifecycle.
Additionally, as leaders in our organizations should be champions for creating comprehensive Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and benefits packages that include healthcare plans with mental health features, these should not be considered elite benefits or optional in the design of health coverage for employees.
Encouraging utilization and partnering with the EAP provider to ensure that the benefits provided are actually benefiting employees is an opportunity for most organizations. Some organizations do this well with full campaigns about the benefits offered, the quality of services available, and the confidentiality of the programs.
By treating mental health-related programs and policies around wellbeing as a necessity rather than a luxury, our organizations will thrive, and people will feel supported. We also become part of the solution, instead of a source of the problem.
We know from our personal experience and research that when employees feel supported and that they belong, they are more productive and able to stay actively engaged in the workplace.
Whether you are a leader within a large, medium or small business, we must help each other overcome the stigma around mental health so that we can deal head on with the realities people are living with today. Recently I’ve seen some leaders be vulnerable and share personal experiences with mental illness. This is a significant step in allowing employees to be real as well. Our humanity and right to wellness is what unites us as people.
How many times have we seen the post on LinkedIn to “treat people with kindness because you never know what someone is going through.”It’s our responsibility as organizational stakeholders to find ways to ensure we take care of each other so we can deliver the products and services we are passionately in business for.
Chances are we have all had to cope with some element of stress and anxiety in our careers; so when we can be the change we wish to see in our organizations, and have policies and programs to back it up, we then can create environments that are win-win.