If you could save nearly $200 billion by simply starting a conversation, would you do it? Our societal reluctance to talk about mental health isn’t just hurting certain individuals: it’s having a major effect on our economy.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year in the U.S. economy is caused by serious mental illness. The sooner we can start having regular discussions about our collective mental fitness, the better and more productive our lives will become.
Why raise awareness about mental health?
American adults who have some mental illness have higher unemployment rates than their mentally healthy peers. There are also additional health risks associated with mental illness: people with depression are at 40% higher risk than the general population to develop metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.
Excluding visits related to pregnancy and childbirth, for people under 45 living in the U.S., mood disorders are the most common reason for hospitalization. These statistics make it clear that mental health isn’t just limited to the brain: when someone is suffering, their illness has the potential to affect their body, their company’s overall productivity, and the well-being of their community.
Like any other part of the physical body, the emotional and intellectual spheres that make up a person’s mental health require regular check-ups. Due to a history of stigma, openly discussing your mental health was in previous decades considered to be a sign that something was wrong. Employers often had no formal process for managing problems in this area, and employees who were suffering felt shamed into silence.
However, today we understand that openly discussing mental health can act as a preventative measure. Unfortunately, many employees may still not be familiar with what the signs and symptoms of deteriorating mental fitness are. Instead of seeking solutions to problems, they may feel that they are expected to handle more stress at work than is healthy.
By raising awareness about mental health, HR professionals can not only bolster the morale of their workforce, but also save their organizations money in the future by avoiding unnecessary health care costs.
How to improve mental health awareness
With this mind, how can a company begin to improve mental health awareness? Although it may initially seem like a daunting undertaking, there are three simple ways to begin:
Push past the stigma
If your company culture currently finds it difficult to talk about mental health, start by bringing up the real-world consequences of lost productivity and earnings in meetings with management personnel. It’s also helpful to emphasize the significant numbers of people (nearly one in five U.S. adults) who suffer from some form of mental illness.
It’s important to make it clear to everyone at the organization that good mental health isn’t a luxury, but a necessity. More importantly, to remain competitive in the larger economy, an organization needs to make sure its employees are receiving access to the best care available. Having a stigma around discussing mental health is a big expense!
Join the national discussion
Every May, the United States celebrates Mental Health Awareness Month. Started in 1949 by the Mental Health America organization, the month’s activities are typically organized around a theme. Numerous materials and events, from pamphlets to films to workshops, are created to reflect and explore the year’s chosen theme.
For an HR professional looking to start the conversation about mental health within the workplace, placing Mental Health Awareness Month on the official company calendar is an excellent way to encourage dialogues and eliminate any stigma that employees and other colleagues may be feeling about the topic. Although in-person events may still be difficult for the foreseeable future, mentioning the month in company-wide newsletters or personnel notifications will signal to employees that mental health is an important issue.
Luckily, seminars and workshops hosted during Mental Health Awareness Month can likely be attended virtually. As an HR professional, you might also consider creating a small library of materials on the subject of mental health that can be easily accessed by employees. This library can either be physical or virtual, but it could contain basic information on diagnostics, self-assessment tests, and ways employees can access information specific to the concerns they may have.
Create a regular forum for discussion
Regularly setting aside time for discussions with employees about mental health will create a much-needed forum for your organization. Depending on the size and number of employees, HR professionals can consider hosting monthly or perhaps even weekly sessions that allow employees to voice their concerns both individually and in group settings.
These outreach programs will create an ongoing conversation that will help the company resolve issues before they become problems. These sessions don’t have to be overly formal; they can take the form of meditation sessions, breathing exercises, or even just safe spaces for relaxation. Whatever form they take, they should serve as reminders that managing one’s mental health and stresses of the way we work now is not always an easy task, but it is worthwhile.
Mental health awareness in the workplace
Fundamental company-wide changes start with a simple examination. What is your company’s current policy toward mental health? Do you offer employees access to diagnostic tools, such as self-assessment tests or referrals to counseling? Does your organization or company currently offer seminars about mental health? What specific measures to help employees with their mental fitness are included in your current health care plan?
If you have trouble answering these questions, that’s a sign that your company may be behind the times when it comes to anticipating your employees’ mental health needs. However, it’s not too late to start. Raising awareness in the workplace is the first step: finding a suitable health care plan or health care partner that can address all contingencies is the destination.
In pursuit of this goal, many companies have discovered the benefit of a mental health partner. These partners focus exclusively on providing mental health services, and develop a trusted network of physicians, therapists, and treatment centers that can address any issue, from relatively minor mood disorders to clinical help.
As an HR professional, raising awareness of mental health in the workplace will enable your employees to seek the initial resources they need. A mental health partner will be able to guide each employee on their own individual journey toward mental well-being.
At Spring Health, we believe that every individual benefits from precise, data-driven care. Our years of experience in this field allow us to tailor a custom treatment regimen for each person, regardless of their background or level of need. To learn more about what we can offer your team, please request a demo.