Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses carry a workplace stigma that cause many employees to suffer in silence rather than to seek help. Many employees struggling with mental health issues have expressed anxiety about the possibility of losing their jobs due to productivity loss. One in five adults in the United States has a mental illness and have experienced symptoms at work, and according to a study done by the World Heath Organization, depression can be linked to more than 200 million sick days each year. Reducing the stigma of mental illness may improve the overall health of employees with the added benefit of increasing productivity and decreasing the employer cost attributable to mental illness.
Employers can start improving employee health and productivity by implementing even small changes in the workplace such as addressing gaps in health coverage or offering an employee assistance program (EAP) to provide support needed to ease anxiety and reduce stress. Employers may also want to consider having mental health awareness days or regular newsletters that address signs and symptoms of mental illness as well as provide information regarding confidential services and crisis-intervention lines.
Additionally, employers may regularly remind employees of the mental health services offered by the employer health plan and encourage them to take advantage of those services. Telehealth services and NurseLines are often valuable services included with a group health plan and may provide an important avenue of care. When employers prioritize the mental and emotional well-being of employees, the overall environment of the workplace changes, and employees can feel safe coming forward to address their stressors without fear of stigma.
Employers can find more resources and information at Mental Health First Aid at Work.