“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” Glenn Close has said.
Glenn Close is not only in the greatest movie, Gradians of the Galaxy, but she also has been one of the greatest at capturing the attention of the public both on and off the screen since long before then. Her advocacy around destigmatizing mental health is something we can all learn from. Close says that awareness is the first step toward helping those struggling and dozens of other celebrities agree. A-listers including Simone Biles, Dwayne Johnson, Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga and more have shared their own mental health struggles in hopes of normalizing these issues which have been particularly widespread over the course of the pandemic.
Of course, not everyone is ready to open up about experiencing mental health issues. But companies can look for signs and approach situations with compassion and understanding, as well as a willingness to listen and learn, and provide support if asked as employees seek help.
How mental health affects employees
The past year-plus of quarantining and social distancing has created periods of anxiety and isolation for all of us, making mental health even more prominent.
If an employee’s mental health is suffering, the impact does not remain limited to their personal life. You’ll see it reflected in job performance, productivity, and engagement. That can take multiple forms, from turning in subpar or late work to being distant and distracted during meetings. However, this can also be shown in the opposite form – working late hours and not taking the time necessary to recharge and “shut off” and improve your mental health.
The impact on performance then results in reduced confidence within the workplace, exacerbating the impact on performance further. For example, an employee might be afraid to speak up out of self-doubt or lose motivation to pursue big ideas.
The cost of staying silent to companies
Unfortunately, a majority of employees fear discussing mental health with their company. A 2019 study by Businessolver found that 68% of employees worry that admitting and reaching out to their employer about a mental illness could negatively affect their job leaving, a large number of employees without a support system in the workplace.
Prior to COVID, an estimated 264 million people were suffering from depression, with many also experiencing anxiety, and that number has surely risen since. The World Health Organization (WHO) led a study that revealed depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy a combined $1 trillion every year in lost productivity. Kaiser Permanente adds that 62% of missed work days can be attributed to mental health conditions.
Thankfully, we’re seeing leading behavioral health organizations and traditional healthcare practices taking steps to meet the needs of their patients, benefiting both individuals and their employers.
Taking a stand against stigma
What’s the solution for companies, then? The first step is to break the silence and promote mental health awareness. Here are a few ways to get started:
Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members and encourage them to seek the help they need. Managers should reassure employees it’s okay to take time off if needed and be clear what HR policies apply to leaves of absence.
Make employees aware that they are legally entitled by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to reasonable accommodations for mental health conditions, including time to attend therapy, and guaranteed protection from discrimination or harassment.
Offer materials, videos, training, and one-pagers to all employees about the signs and symptoms of someone suffering with mental illness. This helps overcome the stigma of speaking up and could lead to employees asking each other questions like, “Are you okay?” or “You seem a little off today, want to grab lunch?” With COVID, maybe even a quick video call discussing things other than work.
Give employees the option to attend seminars or workshops on coping with mental health issues. These options will promote employees to speak up and know they are not alone.
Mental health is important in both our personal and professional lives. By increasing our awareness and destigmatizing seeking support from employers, we can create opportunities for employees to take care of themselves and advance their careers.
How have you spent time on your mental health? Comment below on ways you do so.