May is mental health awareness month. In the not-so-distant past, individuals who would now be diagnosed with intellectual disabilities, neurodivergence, substance use and mental illness could have been locked away in asylums. We now know that All individuals are important and can maintain valued roles in society.
Over the past couple of years of the pandemic, the conversation about mental health has resurfaced. Many people are struggling with burnout, isolation, depression and a host of other issues. A statistic by a USC-Brookings survey states “Almost 20% of working adults report significant symptoms of mental illness over the course of a month, and half will experience an issue over their lifetime.” Think about that, this is something a significant amount of your workforce may face. It is imperative to provide an environment that is supportive of mental health.
There are several actions leaders can take to support mental health in the workplace:
*Be flexible with scheduling – those diagnosed with mental illness and substance use issues may need to flex-time around medical and counseling appointments. These appointments are critical for the recovery of individuals.
*Offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if your organization has one. Many EAP programs have counseling sessions free of charge as a benefit to employees.
*Role-Model Healthy Behavior- keep healthy work and life boundaries. Don’t answer emails at all hours of the day and night and expect your employees to do the same. When you take a day off, set an out of the office message and don’t answer emails.
*Use Stigma-Reducing Language – there are many derogatory terms for those struggling with mental health and substance use. Educate yourself on the proper language to use when discussing mental illness.
*Say “Thank You” followed by “How can I support you” – if someone you supervise is brave enough to reveal their personal struggles, start by saying “Thank You”, then listen. After that ask, “How can I support you?”
*Offer a health plan with mental health and substance use coverage
*Tailor Your Approach – each person you supervise is different. Tailor your approach to offer different support needed for each individual.
*Support a Positive Culture – shut down gossip, back-biting and any other negative behavior that could be devastating to mental health.
This blog hasn’t covered everything needed to support mental health in the workplace, but I hope it is a start. Please check out the resources below for more information.
Reflection Question: What actions can I take to support positive mental health at work?
Topic Next Week: Tactical Empathy
Sources and Resources: