October 14, 2022

Mental Health Awareness Month: Normalizing Mental Health as a Priority in the Workplace

There is no understating that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the working world. The importance of caring for one’s own mental and physical health has maintained a priority in the last few years. In many industries, staffing shortages have caused significant increases in employee burnout. Now more than ever, employees are looking for employers that will support a work/life balance.

Mental health in the workplace can still feel like a sticky subject for some. Talking to co-workers and managers about experiencing mental health issues can feel intimidating. Luckily, a shift in the discussion around mental health in America has started to change for the better.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, let’s discuss the topic more and how it pertains to the workplace.

Why is talking about mental health important?

More people struggle with mental health than you might think! The way to break down any barriers when it comes to mental health is simply to talk about it. The more mental health is talked about the less uncomfortable it is for those struggling to speak up and ask for help when they need it.

A simple conversation or even asking someone “are you okay?” can make a big difference. Whether a person struggles with their mental health continuously or is having trouble brought on by a work or life event, all anyone needs is support.

Mental health is at the forefront of daily conversations right now, so it only makes sense to approach this topic in the workplace. Employees will be more productive and loyal to companies that embrace the normalization of encouraging employees to take care of themselves. No one can take care of someone else or bring their best selves to work if their mental health is not a priority.

What can managers do to support the mental health of employees?

There are many things that a manager or a workplace can do to support the mental health of all employees. Work culture can include more teambuilding exercises, providing opportunities for employees to “high-five” or recognize daily achievements in each other, and making trust and honesty important values. On a day-to-day basis, employees should be encouraged to take breaks, leave on their scheduled time, and take time for themselves.

If a manager notices that an employee might be struggling with their mental health, they should be supportive and reach out to the employee to see if there are anything that could help. If accommodations are needed these could range from some downtime or days off, a temporary or permanent change to a remote or hybrid work schedule or referring the employee to an Employment Assistance Program if necessary.  

What can employees do to support their mental health at work?

On a daily basis, employees should make a habit of taking breaks and doing some sort of physical activity even if it is a walk to the breakroom or a 10-minute walk around the block. Getting away from your primary work environment is a great way to refresh and prevent burnout.

If an employee notices that they are struggling with their mental health and they believe it will impact their work, they should speak to a supervisor or human resources for some additional support and possible accommodations.  Trying to “push through” when you are not well means you will not be presenting your best work.

Resources

One way or another, mental health impacts all of us. If you need help or know someone that does the following resources are a great place to start.

NY Project Hope Emotional Support Hotline: 1-844-863-9314

National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI Rochester): 585-423-1593

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988 or1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: text the word 'Home' to 741-741

211: You can always call 211 to speak to someone and find local assistance.

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