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News & Events

The final frontier in breaking stigmas around mental health? The workplace

Topic: News

Is your workplace one that encourages employees to seek guidance and counsel on both personal and professional matters, including mental health?

One in 5 Americans are affected by mental health conditions. In their personal lives, employees may feel perfectly comfortable addressing their mental health struggles — but then Monday morning rolls around, and it’s time to put the mask back on.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and our society has made huge strides in better recognizing, treating and responding to many different mental health issues. But the workplace is one area of our lives where it can still be difficult to admit that we struggle sometimes…and considering how much time Americans spend working each day — just under nine hours per day, as recent Bureau of Labor statistics state — that’s an awfully large stretch of our day to ignore such an important issue.

Whether you’re an employer or an employee, it is likely that those around you are dealing with much more under the surface. And without the freedom to address those struggles, everyone suffers.

Professionally, workplace productivity is often the hardest hit by hidden mental health struggles. According to statistics from the Center for Workplace Health, up to seven percent of full-time workers experience major depression, and the price of major depression often shows up at work as increased absenteeism or majorly reduced productivity, known as presenteeism.

Personally, the fear of being penalized or viewed differently by superiors or coworkers often keeps employees from actively addressing mental health struggles — which only compounds the issue by keeping an air of shame and secrecy around it.

So how can we all work together to break the workplace stigma around mental health, once and for all?

A great first step is to connect with your human resources department to look for ways to encourage a more open attitude around discussing mental health. Sometimes even just sharing a reminder of how the company already supports mental health in the form of existing employee benefits can prompt individuals to proactively seek support and help where they may need it.

Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offer awareness programs, such as their CureStigma campaign, and resources for workplaces to better encourage employees to seek help and treatment. In addition, our team at Community Care Services offers supported employment/individual placement support for individuals with mental illness and can offer additional insight for employers on how to better support workers who may need greater support.

Change may not happen overnight, but it often begins as one tiny step in the right direction…by simply opening up the doors for effective dialogue around mental health, you could be setting the foundation for a healthier, happier workplace.

Susan Kozak has been a licensed social worker for the past 31 years and currently serves as the executive director of Community Care Services, a position she has held since 2011.