Mental Health’s Role in the Workplace

By: Emmy Rinehart

We’ve all been there. The alarm goes off, and we begrudgingly open our sleep-filled eyes. We think about how much we need this job and the promise of a paycheck pulls us out of the bed that we just climbed into a mere five hours ago. We got home the night before, and the evening went by in a series of doctor’s appointments, sporting events, a hastily made dinner, answering more emails and then suddenly looking at the clock that read midnight, leaving us wondering where our gym session, healthy dinner and meaningful conversation with our spouse was supposed to fit in.

None of this is helped by the fact that we know if we asked for the morning off, our boss would likely laugh in our faces at the absurdity of such a question. If we told them we were calling off because our bodies have grown heavy with responsibility and anxiety has created craters where cuticles used to grow, we would likely be told to push through because that seems to be the American way. With suicide being the 10th leading cause of death (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018) in the U.S., and one in five adults living with a mental illness, we cannot afford to keep perpetuating this attitude in the work place (National Institute of Mental Health, 2019).

With an increased focus on mental health overall, some businesses are working towards creating a healthier workplace for their employees, and they are seeing amazing results in productivity and loyalty in return. A marketing analytics company called Knotch in N.Y.C. gives their employees $50 a month to use for any wellness related activity they choose (Downes, 2019). Some put this money towards therapy sessions or meditation apps, while others schedule trips to the spa or purchase gym memberships to aid in reducing stress (Downes, 2019).

Other ways to increase mental health in the workplace include management being open and encouraging when talking about mental wellness, offering online counseling services and including mental health professionals as a part of their business teams (Downes, 2019).

Even if companies do not have the budget to cover such tools, they can still make a difference when it comes to improving mental health in the workplace (Motsiff, n.d.). Educating your employees on mental illness is important so that they can see that it is not uncommon and is in fact manageable with the right help. It is also important to foster an environment where people feel that they can talk openly about these issues (Motsiff, n.d.).

There are many ways a business can do this. They could have an open-door policy where people can share what is going on in their lives with their management when they are having a hard time. They can then work with managers so that they know how to assist their teams in balancing work and home responsibilities and include information on how to deal with mental illness within employee handbooks.

Finally, it is crucial to treat mental illness just like any other illness and address the issues directly that may be caused as a result (Motsiff, n.d.). If someone has the flu, you don’t expect that person to perform at the same level that they normally do, and you give them time to recover. Mental illness should be given the same accommodation.

Great strides are being made in the way of improving mental health and decreasing the stigma surrounding it in the workplace, but we still have a long way to go. How will you take care of your team today?

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