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From classrooms to board rooms, mental health is a major discussion as so many people cope with unprecedented stress, anxiety, depression and burnout in the post-pandemic world. As we are learning, these mental health challenges make it hard for employees to bring their best selves to work.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, untreated mental illness may cost companies up to $300 billion annually, largely due to impacts on productivity, absenteeism and increases in medical and disability expenses. Acknowledging and responding to the mental health needs of employees can help build a culture of understanding, end stigma and boost overall productivity. Where to start?
Each year, nearly one in five US adults experiences a mental health challenge, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports depression is the leading cause of disability in the US for ages 15 to 44 years, yet 80% of workers with a mental health condition say shame and stigma prevent them from seeking treatment.
As an employer when you acknowledge that mental illness is real, it puts people at ease and builds trust and compassion within the workplace. When the acceptance and understanding extends beyond the human resources team and comes from leadership, a culture shift within the organization starts to happen. Leaders who share their own mental health struggles and/or simply acknowledge that “it is okay to not feel okay” is a place to start in creating an environment free from stigma.
Lives are complicated, and employees are often carrying the burden of their own struggles and their family members. Over a five-year period (2016 – 2020), there was a 27% increase in diagnosed childhood anxiety, and a 21% increase in children’s diagnosed behavioral or conduct problems. At the same time, the mental health of parents/caregivers decreased 70%.
Mental health affects everyone in the family unit. Recognizing these challenges, discussing accommodations to support employees and their families, and connecting them to available benefits and resources for all family members can build a culture that embraces mental well-being.
A recent report by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 94% of human resources professionals believe offering mental health resources can improve the overall health of employees. Additionally, the survey found that 88% of HR professionals said mental health benefits can increase productivity, with 86% saying that these resources can also improve employee retention.
Resources abound for employers committed to becoming mental health champions. Here are a few places to start:
For additional resources and information about mental health benefit options for employees, contact a PayneWest health management consultant or benefits advisor.
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