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12 Employer Resources to Improve Mental Health Awareness

By Andrea Pohlsander:

May was Mental Health Awareness month, and while the stigma of mental illness has decreased over the years, it’s still prevalent in the workplace and should be acknowledged throughout the year.  A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that only 50% of US employers provide the resources necessary to meet their employee’s mental health needs. Unfortunately, 1 in 5 adults struggles with their mental health and global rates of depression and anxiety have risen at a rate of 15-20% over the last decade.

Half of the individuals struggling with depression, a treatable condition, are going untreated. There are many reasons for this; applicable workplace concerns include inadequate mental health coverage, primary care providers with a lack of knowledge and resources, stigma, lack of engagement in treatment, worry about job loss, and damage to relationships.

While, just as with any other illness, organizations do not have the authority or responsibility to dictate or provide treatment for a mental health issue. However, your employee’s mental health does have an impact on performance, productivity, retention, and so much more, thus affecting your organization’s bottom line.

Improving Mental Health in the Workplace

Many businesses take a completely hands-off approach to mental health issues, which only adds to the stigma. Let’s be honest; when problems arise that may make us uncomfortable, avoidance is often our first choice.  The problem is that we have a responsibility to the organizations we work for to strive to get the best from employees. And, our employees deserve what support we can appropriately provide when so much of what happens in the workplace can affect their mental health.

Only 50% of US employers provide the resources to meet their employee’s mental health needs. Improve office #MentalHealth awareness with these resources from @RMB_Andrea. Click To Tweet

Organizations can start by ensuring they are providing appropriate resources, training to management, and creating a culture of acceptance.  Management can focus on clarifying expectations, helping employees be successful at their jobs, and managing workplace stressors.  Easier said than done, right? Here are some resources to help improve mental health awareness and care within your organization.

1. APAF Employer Resources

The American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APAF), Employer Resources webpage, contains a fount of tools and resources. These include Mental Health Calculators for calculating the impact of mental health issues in your workplace, programs like ICU (designed for improving awareness in the workplace) and Right Direction, an initiative developed for and by employers to address depression in the workplace, and many recommendations and tools to improve access to mental health care.

2. Change the Conversation

Educate and train management on how to identify issues in the workplace and to address them as intended outcomes and solutions rather than as problems promotes employee success. Here’s some info on how to change the conversation to be more productive.

3. Collaborative Care Model

Understand and ensure your health plan includes a Collaborative Care Model (CoCM). Collaborative care uses a team to address mental health issues, which include primary care providers, behavioral health care managers, and consulting psychiatrists. Benefits of the CoCM include providing access to timely, effective, less costly and less stigmatizing mental health care. Additionally, for every $1 spent on care delivered in the CoCM, there is a $6.50 ROI in improved health and productivity.

4. Access to Tools to Reduce Stress

Consider providing employees with access to tools to reduce stress and promote general mental health wellness by engaging a company like Whil. Whil provides over 250 science-based digital programs to help reduce stress, increase resilience, and improve general well being and performance. Since engaging Whil, many companies, including Aetna, Harvard Business School, and Morton Salt have seen a reduction in absenteeism, turnover, and healthcare costs.

5. Provide Access to Screening Tools

Help employees understand that mental health conditions are real, common, very treatable, and recovery is possible.  Provide and encourage employees to take advantage of the many free screening tools available. Mental Health America provides online tests for depression, anxiety, bipolar, eating disorders, and more.

6. Offer Telemed Services

Consider having your health plan include Telemed services for behavioral and psychiatric health. Benefits include improving access to mental health care by bringing care to the patient, a reduction in delays in care, enhancing continuity of care and follow-up, and a decrease in the need for employees to take time off work or need of childcare services.

7. Employee Self-Care Programs

Create, encourage, and implement an employee self-care program as part of your organization’s culture empowering employees to improve their work-life balance, reducing stress, absenteeism, and presenteeism, as well as increasing employee engagement and productivity.

8. Adopt Supportive Performance Management

Having a supportive performance management plan that takes mental health into account can go a long way toward ensuring improvement and employee success. Many organizations have performance management processes for when an employee is not performing as expected.  While it’s essential to address such issues, plans that focus only on the negative often harms both the employee and management. The goal of supportive performance management is to alleviate stressors and avoid triggers for both the employee and manager while providing the tools needed to correct performance issues positively.

9. Educate Preventative Practices to Avoid Chronic Stress and Burnout

Chronic Stress and Burnout are real, and when ignored, can lead to even more severe mental health issues.  While they are different, preventative treatment involves many of the same strategies.  Educating and encouraging employees to follow such procedures as the following list will increase employee’s overall health and wellbeing and help to prevent or alleviate these conditions.

    • Maintaining a healthy diet with regular exercise
    • Getting plenty of sleep
    • Developing excellent time management skills and techniques
    • Completing small acts of service or kindness for others
    • Keeping a journal
    • Practicing relaxation techniques
    • Working with a purpose – help employees to rediscover why they do what they do so it’s more than just a paycheck
    • Perform a job analysis to clarify expectations and manage conflicting priorities

10. Reduce Workplace Stressors

Reduce workplace stressors by asking for specific factors that make your employee’s jobs stressful, communicating with employees one-on-one, dealing with workplace conflicts positively, provide workers with opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their jobs, avoid unrealistic deadlines, be clear about expectations, and offer rewards and incentives.

11. Clearly Post Helpline Resources

Post helpline resources for suicide and mental health assistance in a visible area of your office and internal employee websites. You never know when providing these sources of support may save a life.

12. Create a Mental Health Policy

If you don’t already have one, creating an overall Mental Health policy that addresses the treatment of employees facing mental health issues and systems that clearly outline management’s responsibilities and resources offered by your organization. Consider including a policy permitting the use of Paid Time Off for a Mental Health day and more.

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There’s so much more

While this is only a dozen resources and ideas to improve mental health awareness, there are many, many more out there. Don’t be afraid to open a discussion about the issues that are affecting your employees. Chances are your employees will be the best place to start to teach you how best to support them.

Continuing to ignore the issues they are struggling with will only perpetuate the adverse effects mental health issues have on your bottom line.  Change doesn’t happen overnight, but if we all work towards reducing the stigma of mental illness, we’ll have a happier, healthier, more productive workforce.

Do you know of any great resources to help reduce the stigma and improve mental health awareness in the workplace? Please share with us @RedBranch!