Mental health is an important part of our overall wellbeing, yet it's still a topic that's still shrouded in stigma and silence. This is particularly true in the workplace, where employees may feel hesitant to discuss their mental health struggles for fear of judgment or repercussions. However, by breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health and creating a supportive and inclusive work environment, we can help to ensure that all employees feel valued and supported.
You may be thinking "But we don't have that trouble! Anyone can come up and talk!" but here's the thing: It's still internal, and unless someone in leadership shows this by example whether that be talking about it openly, discussing options or asking people on an individual basis, people are often not comfortable talking about it. At least, not yet - and that's where we need to #beginthetalk
The stigma surrounding mental health can have a significant impact on the workplace. Employees who struggle with mental health issues may feel isolated and alone, leading to decreased job satisfaction, lower productivity, and higher rates of absenteeism. Additionally, employees may be hesitant to seek help or accommodations for their mental health struggles, further exacerbating their symptoms and leading to a worsening of their condition.
Ok, so how do we do that? I mean...we have an EAP so we're good, right? What I would say is if you have an EAP, that's a great start. However, there's no denying that with national usage rates of EAPs being low (even as low as 3-5%) there's more involvement needed.
To create a supportive and inclusive work environment that encourages open discussion of mental health, it's important to take a proactive approach. Here are a few strategies that employers can implement:
- Educate Employees: Provide educational resources and training to employees to help them better understand mental health and how to support colleagues who may be struggling.
- Promote Open Communication: Encourage open communication about mental health by normalizing discussions and providing opportunities for employees to share their experiences in a safe and supportive environment. Often, at the beginning of meetings invite Cognitive Offload.
- Don't just enable, but ENCOURAGE Supportive Resources: Offer employee assistance programs, mental health benefits, and other supportive resources to employees who may be struggling with mental health issues. Then, talk about it at every opportunity you can. Show how you're involved, be vulnerable, and be curious about your employees.
- Foster a Positive Work Culture: Foster a positive work culture that values and prioritizes employee mental health and wellbeing. Encourage employees to take breaks, practice self-care, and seek support when needed. If you're thinking "I think we do this" - Call us. NOW. Cuz chances are, if you aren't 100% on this, you're not doing enough and we'd love to help.
- Lead by Example: Leaders within the workplace should lead by example and prioritize their own mental health, creating a culture of openness and support that empowers employees to do the same. I can't stress this enough!
Breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace is a process that requires ongoing effort and commitment. By taking a proactive approach and implementing supportive strategies, employers can create a work environment that prioritizes employee mental health and wellbeing. It may seem slow, and even a little bit of a trudge but don't sweat it, every conversation is a HUGE help! Together, we can work towards a future where mental health is treated with the same importance and understanding as physical health, and employees feel safe and supported in discussing their mental health struggles.