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May is Mental Health Month: Take Care of Yourself, Your Team

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Mental health disorders, which include depression, anxiety, stress and other psychological disorders, affect over a quarter of all American adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders. Employees afflicted with poor mental health could potentially experience symptoms, such as reduced focus, low productivity, reduced cognitive abilities and poor physical well-being.

The monetary repercussions of poor employee mental health are tangible — costing the U.S. economy nearly $48 billion each year in lost revenue. Fortunately, your business can implement programs to help your employees cope with and manage their mental health.

Activities and Programs

Despite its intangibility, mental health can be managed through programs, activities and treatment. For that reason, you may want to consider these suggestions to assist your employees and minimize the effects of poor mental health on your business:

  • Develop an employee assistance program (EAP) that offers screening, counseling and referral services for mental health and other issues. Ideally, the EAP would offer customized services based on the needs of your employees by being responsive to acute and emerging stressors in the workplace. Reassure your employees that all health information is confidential and sharing this information will not affect their jobs.
  • Provide mental health screenings and educate your employees on the symptoms of mental health illnesses and the methods of treatment. Encourage employees to be screened, either through their primary doctors or through your EAP, if they have symptoms.
  • Encourage employees to engage in physical activity, both during the workday and at home. Mild exercise can decrease some mental health disorder symptoms, and, in some cases, even prevent mild depressive episodes.
  • Conduct employee surveys and ask about work stressors (such as conflicts with co-workers or managers), job demands (such as time pressure or physical demands), the level of support provided by supervisors, etc. All of these issues can affect the mental health of employees and can give you a baseline for implementing further training or workplace changes.

Remember to Breathe

How a workplace is structured can either help or exacerbate an employee’s mental health. By developing helpful programs and communicating with your employees, your business should be able to minimize the impact of poor mental health.

WHAT ARE SOME PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES EMPLOYERS CAN OFFER THEIR EMPLOYEES?

Consider the following:

  • Organizing a company sports team
  • Scheduling walking meetings
  • Offering gym memberships at a reduced cost.

WHAT OTHER WAYS CAN EMPLOYERS SHOW THEIR SUPPORT FOR EMPLOYEES WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES?

Here are a few other examples:

  • Provide training on problem solving, effective communication and conflict resolution to support the mental health of employees.
  • Create policies citing appropriate standards of conduct. Include conflict resolution and other training initiatives.

HOW CAN EMPLOYERS ESTABLISH A WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT THAT IS SUPPORTIVE OF EMPLOYEES WHO HAVE MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS?

Here a few things employers can do:

  • Encourage social support among employees, such as an organized support group that meets regularly.
  • Educate all employees about mental health to reduce stigmas and confusion.
  • Treat people who have mental health problems with respect and dignity. Never label people by their conditions.

Rose Bruno, PHR, SHRM-CP,

is an HR consultant for the Manufacturer & Business Association. Contact her at 814/833-3200, 800/815-2660 or rbruno@mbausa.org.