Mental health in the workplace is a touchy subject even though it shouldn’t be. If you’re quite clueless about the basics, here are six things that you should know about it.
How many years has it been since the World Health Organization declared that mental health problems are classified as serious illnesses? It has been a while, for sure, but it can’t be denied that the diseases under this category still carry a stigma. People who are diagnosed with such are still treated with doubt and suspicion as if their health problem is not as bad as other ailments.
While there have certainly been some improvements over the past decade when it comes to treating mental illness, we’re far from handling it properly. A lot of people are working hard to change this but if not everyone is willing to make an effort, we’ll still have to wait a long time for things to change.
Mental Health in the Workplace
It’s no secret that the workplace can be the most nerve-racking places for people with mental illness. They can be too competitive, too alienating, too unwelcoming. Because of this, a lot of talent and potential are wasted.
If you don’t want your workplace to experience the same thing, you should work on educating your people about mental health. Handling these diseases properly start from understanding the condition and their sufferers better, so it’s always a good idea to start there.
As there’s just so much to learn about this problem, it’s best to start small. We won’t talk about the technicalities of mental health as that might prove to be too complicated for some. Here are six of the most basic things that you should know about mental health, however:
1. Mental illness is present in every workplace
One of the most important things that everyone should know about mental health issues is that they come in different forms. They do not manifest in the same way in every sufferer because there are so many different mental health problems that plague the general populace. This is why even if it doesn’t look like it, it’s highly likely that you have an employee or co-w0rker that is suffering from one right now.
Mental illness has a lot of faces so it’s not the easiest thing to detect. However, it is said that 1 out of 5 Americans is diagnosed with a mental illness yearly. Because it’s just like physical health where you get sick from time to time, people can also get a mental illness on occasions.
What you should note, however, is that 1 in 25 of them suffer from a severe case. Most people won’t be able to tell even if they’re working desk neighbors is one of them. As some mental illnesses are not always debilitating, most sufferers pass off like their normal selves even if they’re not 100% there.
However, just like physical ailments, it can be just as costly to businesses. Some experts estimate that mental illnesses cause losses that amount to a staggering $193.2 billion in earnings yearly so it’s important for enterprises to address the issue head-on.
2. Employees with mental illnesses are protected by the law
There are a few things that employers should and shouldn’t do with their employees that are diagnosed with mental health conditions. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers should:
- provide the necessary accommodations for employees with mental health conditions; and
- not fire, force them to stop working or deny promotions based on mental health.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness also says that employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave when dealing with a mental health crisis. While the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act makes sure that health insurance policies provide similar coverage to mental health conditions just like they do with physical health conditions.
3. Talking about mental health in the workplace would be beneficial for everyone
Mental health concerns are always some of the biggest elephants in the room, especially in workplaces. This is why creating spaces to talk about them would be a good idea for employers. This will help you educate your team about the issue at hand.
It can also be a positive thing for your employees who are suffering from a mental illness. Activities of this kind will provide support to your team members which is exactly what they need during such tough times.
With the help of the right organizations and experts, you can create a friendlier working environment for those who are struggling with their mental health condition. Open conversations between the employee and management is also a great thing to have.
4. Employees have access to assistance programs
It’s not common knowledge that there are employee assistance programs (EAP) for mental health issues. These are usually available in the form of hotlines for employees to call whenever they need support for their mental health condition.
The best part? The sessions are kept confidential. Employers will not be informed so you can be confident that their condition will not have an effect on their employment.
5. Mental health conditions are mostly treatable
As mentioned above, some mental illnesses can come and go just like physical ailments. Not a lot of people know this for a fact so it’s important to spread the word.
Even severe cases of chronic mental illnesses are largely treatable. With the right resources and ample support, it can certainly be done.
6. Employers and colleagues can make a huge difference in one’s struggle with their mental health condition
Employers can certainly take the right measures in supporting their employees with mental illnesses. For one, they can educate their employers about mental health and even train them how to react to emergencies. Corporate seminars on this topic are offered by various institutions so there won’t be a problem in finding resources for such.
With the right information, colleagues can then provide good support for those with mental health conditions. As they spend a third of their days together, colleagues tend to develop a certain bond and mutual trust. They can then use this to provide excellent support to each other in times of crisis. So if a workplace is well-versed in mental health issues, it won’t be difficult for them to provide support to a co-worker that is struggling with one.
Mental health shouldn’t stay as a touchy subject in workplaces if you want your business to progress. As there are tons of ways how to handle this topic, employers should make an effort to address this pressing concern.
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