Mental Health in the Workplace

09 October 2017

Mental Health in the Workplace

The issues of mental health results in $79bn a year in lost productivity costs, and over 300 million lost workdays in the US alone, according to the US Surgeon General’s office. Those numbers illustrate just how big an issue mental health in the workplace is within the American workforce, and how a rise in mental health in the workplace issues, if not addressed, could spell disaster for both your employees and your business. How can you mitigate the risks to your employee and their fellow workers? How can you build a mentally healthy workforce? The American Psychiatric Association’s guide on implementing an appropriate workplace mental health program touches on many suggestions which may be useful to you as an employer.

Mental Health in the Workplace by GoContractor

The Stats

It’s approximated that one in five adults, or some 43 million people in the US, suffer from a mental health issue, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Further numbers from NIMH suggest that over 13 million people have experienced a serious mental illness in a given year, which seriously limits a person’s ability to conduct a daily activity, such as work.

When you examine the various mental health in the workplace issues within the workplace, 31% of employees said they feel stressed out or tense, on any given working day, according to The American Psychological Association. Additionally, analysis on mental health in the workplace, conducted by Pfizer, found that 21% of the US workforce experiences at least one mental health issue a year. According to their report, depression and social anxiety disorders appear to be the most prevalent mental disorders. But, there are other disorders that can often be overlooked like: anxiety, ADD, ADHD, borderline personality disorders and eating disorders.

What this means for you as an employer is that you may have to spend more time incorporating mental health awareness into your organisation by developing a blueprint. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s guide, you can build on existing tools to “counter the costly effects” of a mental health issue, which in the long-term will ensure your worker is safe, reduce costs and create a positive environment; where workers aren’t afraid to approach management with an issue.

Building a Mentally Healthy Workforce

Evaluate Your Current Mental Health Programs

The first thing you should do is look at your existing mental health benefits and health services. After conducting some research of their own, the American telecommunications firm Sprint, produced a guide on implementing mental health services within their company and it is a good example on how to accomplish this task. You may want to ask yourself a few questions: what kind of benefits do you offer? Are those enough? What is the nature of your mental health service that you provide?

Calculate the Cost of Mental Health Issues

According to the guide, you should look at the costs that mental illnesses are causing your company and employees. In order to do this, you can use “web-based” tools, such as depression calculators, to obtain information regarding the cost. Once you’ve got a clear picture, you can look at the funding and make a judgment to determine if funding needs to be increased or not.

Get an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

It may sound like a no-brainer, but the installment of an appropriate EAP program will improve “emotional well-being” and “produce rapid improvements in work performance,” according to the guide. As you may know, these types of mental health programs involve advice and counseling services for employees. In a lot of cases, the issues that your employees may be dealing with can be resolved over time, but some may require more professional help. “This will translate into significant reductions in lost productivity, absenteeism, and healthcare costs,” according to the guide. However, by implementing an EAP, you can ensure your workers get all the help they need so they can return to work as soon as possible, increasing the levels of productivity and morale within the workforce.

Educate Your Managers

The education of your management regarding mental health issues is extremely important. People with mental health issues want to speak to people who understand them, or try to understand where they are coming from. This may start with something as small as a conversation between the manager and the employee regarding an issue. The education process could start at the orientation process, with online training significantly speeding up the overall training. You can tailor your training program so you include the relevant information regarding mental health and curate your content differently depending on the nature of the orientation. Therefore, employees and managers will get different information regarding mental health and how best to approach it.

Offer Mental Health Screening

According to the guide, early “identification” of a mental illness can “save money” and act as one of the most effective tools to ensure your workers are mentally healthy. This is why you should consider a mental health screening, possibly even at the onset of employment. It will ensure that you have a better understanding of your employee and their needs and you can alter your plans accordingly.

Mental health issues can put employers in difficult situations. There are usually no physical symptoms associated with mental health issues so noticing worker’s problems can pose difficulties for any employer; a big problem, given that mental health issues cost employers large amounts of money every year. The best plan is a preemptive strategy that recognizes the importance of mental health and aims to create an open work environment with a mentally healthy workforce where adequate training and counseling is provided. Incorporating a mental health strategy is a must for all companies in 2017 as it will reduce costs by minimizing rates of absenteeism and increasing worker productivity.

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Jenny Snook
Jenny Snook

Jenny Snook is content executive at GoContractor with the job of researching the latest health and safety trends in the heavy industry. Her past-experience includes the research of large museum collections such as the Louth County Museum, many from the industrial age.

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