Promoting Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace
Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it is the ideal time to address the topic of mental health awareness in the workplace. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 43.8 million adults in the United States experience a mental illness each year. In other words, this means that 1 in 5 American adults live with a mental illness. While stigma surrounding mental health remains prevalent within our society, employers should encourage an open dialogue and create a workspace that addresses daily stressors. Without a collaborative and inclusive approach to mental health awareness, companies will not be able to sustain a competitive advantage within their respective industries. When employees feel as though their mental health is being made a priority, they can work to their fullest potential.
For those who work in the skilled trades, which are often male-dominated professions, toxic masculinity and the negative perceptions surrounding emotional vulnerability keep men from seeking the mental health treatment that they need. As gathered from a poll of 21,000 American men conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), 1 in 10 men reported suffering from depression or anxiety, but less than half of them sought professional help. On the other hand, in a study conducted by the American Psychiatric Association, women are twice as likely to experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and panic disorders compared to men.
While mental health issues aren’t always visible, especially in a skilled-trades setting, there are signs that you can look out for in your employees which may indicate mental illness:
- Recurrent absences from work
- Increased alcohol consumption or drug abuse
- Family and relationship conflicts
- Decreased quality of work
- Changes in mood or increased irritability
- Underlying health issues
Often, employees in skilled trades work long hours all while trying to make a livable income and juggle their daily responsibilities. While the job is certainly rewarding, it can feel rather isolating and overwhelming at times. As an employer, make sure to regularly check in with your employees on the status of their mental well-being. If you foster a work environment that pushes past the stigmas and welcomes discussion on mental health, the more candid and honest feedback you will receive. Depending on the size of your company and the number of employees, your HR department can host monthly or even weekly discussion sessions. This way, employees can learn from each other’s experiences and create a sense of community. For those who are going through a tough time, they can begin to see that they are not alone in their struggles.
Just as importantly, you should evaluate the current policies and standards that you have in place regarding mental health. Here are some important questions that can help to guide this examination:
- Does your company offer employees access to diagnostic tools (i.e., self-assessment tests) or referrals to counseling?
- Does your company offer seminars on mental health?
- Within your company’s health insurance plan, what services are offered to help employees with their mental health?
If you are struggling to answer these basic questions, it may be time to come up with a more up-to-date strategy. While awareness is certainly an ideal first step in the journey towards mental health promotion, picking a suitable health care plan or partner that can address these needs is the key to success. When it comes to a mental health partner, many companies take this approach because it provides a trusted network of physicians, therapists, and treatment centers that focus exclusively on mental health concerns.
As an employer, you should advocate for the physical and mental health of your employees. Increased stress levels, lack of exercise, poor diet, and irregular sleep patterns can all contribute to mental health issues. The implementation of stress management training could be one approach to mental health awareness, but also remind your employees to take care of themselves in every area of life. When a person is not physically well, their mental health will also suffer as a result.
Most importantly, employee appreciation can go a long way in promoting mental health awareness. While life can get hectic, make sure to set aside time to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of your employees. In fact, messages of encouragement and acts of gratitude will make any person feel valued. As a result, your employees will develop a more positive outlook on life, which can prove to be beneficial even in the most stressful situations. Work stress can often seem unbearable in the moment, but if you have a positive outlook, it will become so minuscule in the bigger picture of life.
If you or anyone you know is struggling and is thinking of taking an irreversible step, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 and let them know your situation. The darkness is a temporary state, and there is always help available. Do not take permanent action over a momentary condition.
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