Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – What Does That Mean At Work?

Since it is May, and that means it is Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to share a number of links, and bits, from around the web to help us all talk about the impact of mental health issues in the workplace, as well as ways to improve the situation we find ourselves in.

First, I want to start in Canada, where the problem was easy to see:

In the time it takes you to read this article, 50 workers will have booked off work due to a mental health problem or illness. Each week, 500,000 Canadians call in sick because of poor mental health and, by age 40, half of us will have experienced some form of mental illness

When you consider the time most working adults spend on the job, this is a problem employers can’t ignore. Beyond the toll mental illness takes on individuals and families, it’s detrimental to Canadian productivity, whether due to low morale, mistakes, presenteeism, absenteeism, or poor customer service and product quality.

But, they’ve done something about it. It’s called The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace 

And it’s making a difference.

Also, it’s not just Canada. The US Department of Labor has also introduced a mental health toolkit for employers.

Similarly, Steve Boese writes in the HR Executive: about finally understanding just what as issue mental health is for everyone, but also at work:

There are plenty of data about the size and scope of the mental-health problem in the U.S., and I have to admit I was almost shocked about some of the numbers. I always thought these problems were kind of unusual—outliers compared to the more commonly discussed physical-health challenges like cancer or heart disease. Just how common are mental-health conditions? According to the Centers for Disease Control, mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the U.S., with some studies showing that more than 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.

And, also on why organizations are starting to, and need to continue, respond:

Data from the Workplace Mental Health show that the average 1,000-employee organization that pays industry average salaries will experience an annual cost of $1.5 million in lost productivity due to employee depression. Even seemingly less serious illnesses like anxiety have an employer cost as well. Employees with anxiety make six times as many emergency-room visits as the overall population and submit two to four times as many medical claims, according to benefits-consulting firm Willis Towers Watson.

A note here, if I may. What we see now is a lot of reporting that is coming to light about the impacts of depression, anxiety, and other “hidden” mental health issues. This is new. I suspect businesses have always known about the obvious impacts of other, more outward, forms of mental illness, but have mostly responded to that by getting rid of people, which was short-sighted, and inhumane. What we are experiencing in some places today is the realization that you can’t simply not hie anyone with mental health problems. It’s not a sustainable strategy.

Great, so now that we know there’s an issue, there shouldn’t be any problem talking to your boss and getting assistance, right?

Well, not so fast. We know that many workplaces still don’t get it, and we know that our own feelings about it are going to get in the way as well. So we may have some work to do.

As Rahaf Harfoush ‘s book appears to tell us:

Our relationship with our jobs is increasingly dysfunctional, and too many of us wear the amount of work we do as a badge of honour at the expense of our mental and physical well-being.

And it’s not just that technology has allowed us to be “in contact” with work 24 hours a day, it’s also the culture sprouting up around social media and other places that suggest the only way to get anywhere is to continue to work at side hustles, with life coaches, etc, even after working all day. It’s simply burning people out.

OK, once we convince ourselves that taking care of our mental health is worth it in the long run, how do we convince our employers? I have some more reading for you:

How To Proactively Talk To Your Boss About Your Mental Health

Here’s the truth: Good workers prioritize their mental health.

Because you’re no good to yourself, or your employer, if you don’t take care of yourself.

See also:

Reporting a Mental Health Issue at Work

Supporting Mental Health in the Tech Workplace

Let’s face it. We all spend a lot of time at work, surrounded by other people. Our mental health struggles have an impact on each other in that space, and they impact the entire organization. This is the second time just this year that I’ve tried to pull together information and links, because it is that important. It’s not just that mental health issues impact the bottom line, and impact the culture of your business, it’s that you have human beings working with, and for, you. Human beings who deserve support when they are struggling. Yes, their struggles also impact your profits, but if you can’t see them for more than the dollar amount that their labor brings in, maybe you should consider why you’re in business to start with.

The vast number of people around you right now who are hiding their struggles because they are afraid to tell anyone, deserve better. The business community has the resources to provide better treatment options, better support, and better work-life balance. It’s to our shame that we don’t take that seriously enough.

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