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Mental Health Awareness and Support for Employees

Mental Health Awareness and Support for Employees

Established by the Mental Health Organization, Mental Health America, and recognized in May, Mental Health Awareness Month, was created to promote visibility around mental illness. It is a time to educate people about mental illness, raise awareness concerning treatments and research, and reduce the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental illness. In short, it is meant to open the door to start a conversation.

As a small business owner, now is the perfect opportunity to educate your workforce about mental health, encourage open conversations, and promote resources for support.

As an employer, you may be asking yourself, “why should I prioritize mental health?”.  For one thing, mental health is no longer an outlier. Nearly one in five adults in the US has a mental health condition in the United States. And even if that one in five is not your employee, they could have a family member, loved one or friend suffering from a mental illness that could be having an impact on them and their role within the company. Employers need to realize that they play a crucial role in creating a supportive work environment and they should value their employee’s well-being. Employees who feel supported are more likely to be engaged and stay with the company long-term. Being more engaged leads to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and an overall positive workplace culture.

Let’s take a look at how you as an employer can support mental health awareness and support for employees.

 Encourage Open Communication:

  • Promote a culture where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health without fear of judgment or repercussions. And do not allow employees to speak negatively about mental illness. If you allow negative talk, you’re giving the perception that that kind of dialog is ok and acceptable.

  • Offer regular check-ins, either individually or in groups, to foster a sense of connection and understanding with employees and their coworkers.

  • Create channels for anonymous feedback or suggestions to ensure employees feel safe voicing their concerns. It takes a lot of courage to voice concerns but knowing they have a way to safely do so will mean a lot.

Promote Work-Life Balance:

  • Allow for time off! Encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance to reduce stress and burnout.  Make sure to remind them to take breaks during their day and fully step away from their desk. Remind them to take their time off – it is there for a reason.

  • Be willing to offer, or least be open to the conversation of flexible work arrangements, remote work options, or mental health days to accommodate different needs.  Especially if you see your team struggling through a hard assignment.  If they are consistently working late nights, allow them to come in late or even leave early the following week.

  • Lead by example: are you yourself modeling healthy boundaries?  If employees see you working all day every day with no time away, they’ll get the impression they need to model the same behavior.  

Provide Mental Health Resources:

  • Share information about available mental health resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), local counseling services, or wellness programs. An EAP is a great FREE resource for your employees – perhaps highlighting one or two services to showcase all its offerings is a starting place.

  • Organize workshops or training sessions on mental health topics like stress management, resilience, or mindfulness.

  • Consider partnering with your EAP or reach out to local mental health professionals on how you might be able to better support your employees.

Evaluate and Improve Workplace Practices:

  • Use this time to evaluate your current workplace practices, policies, and benefits. Can you identify areas where changes or updates could improve employee mental health and well-being?

  • Consider implementing a mental health survey to gauge employee satisfaction and identify potential areas for improvement. You never know unless you ask!

  • Commit to continuous improvement and adapt strategies as needed based on employee feedback and evolving best practices.

Supporting mental health in the workplace isn't just about adhering to trends or maintaining compliance; it's about building a culture of empathy, respect, and genuine concern for the well-being of employees. Taking proactive steps to create an environment where mental health is openly discussed and valued can lead to a more engaged workforce and a stronger sense of community within your organization.

Remember that each step forward is an investment in people. Knowing that you see employees as more than just a means to the bottom line creates a sense of value in them, and they in turn will want to give their best.  And sometime, when their best might be dampened by mental struggles, knowing you have their backs and that you care, will go a long way in them seeking the support they need.

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