Workplace Mental Health Update: Is Your Workplace Supportive?

Success does not grant immunity from mental health concerns. The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain remind everyone that celebrity, achievement and accolades professionally do not erase or reduce the need to address mental health.Approximately one in five adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5 percent—experiences mental illness in a given year, according to the National Association for Mental Illness. Within that number, about 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. or 9.8 million, experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or interferes with daily life, including work. Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5 percent or 10.2 million adults, had a co-occurring mental illness.[bctt tweet=”#MentalHealth issues at work require support from the top.” username=“takeleadwomen”]“People of all levels of success and those who have achieved great success are still at significant risk for having emotional and mental difficulties,” Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler ,clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern Medicine, told the Wall Street Journal.“Sometimes people who are highly successful also have an increased level of anxiety around maintaining that level of success, or fear of loss of all that they’ve achieved. So I think we should be mindful that even those who to the outside world are quite successful can still have a lot of emotional difficulties that are not obvious to others,” Burnett Zeigler told Sumathi Eddy of the WSJ.[bctt tweet=“Success does not grant immunity from #mentalhealth concerns.” username=“takeleadwomen”]A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows “suicide rates for women 45 to 64 increased nearly 60,percent between 2000 and 2016. For men of the same age the suicide rate increased almost 37 percent over that time,” Eddy writes.While your personal health issues are your concern and you rightfully want to keep your issues private, consider informing a supervisor confidentially of your need for mental health support. You do not want to be judged or misunderstood, but you do want to be given the benefit of the doubt.“Attitudes to mental illness have changed rapidly in the past decade even and as workplace practices modernize, so do office environments and having conversations like this with your employer become easier,” Emma Flynn writes in Bustle.“There are a lot of businesses who have resources available for staff who need mental health support. But for those who aren’t at that stage yet, having an honest conversation about your needs is the best way to go to making sure your employer knows that there may be a time when you need some leeway,” Flynn writes.According to Forbes, data from the recent “Employee Wellbeing Research 2018” report in the United Kingdom “found that only 16 percent of employers have a defined mental health strategy in place. The good news is that 37 percent plan to introduce one in the next 12 months.”This is at a time when the majority—eight in 10—employees “would continue to go to work when experiencing poor mental health while only just over half would go to work when experiencing poor physical health.” The study also reveals that “two-fifths of all employees surveyed felt that their manager would be able to spot the signs they were struggling with poor mental health.”In this country, according to the National Association for Mental Illness, employer support for mental health issues is inadequate. The recent report, Mental Health Parity at Risk, reveals that “28 states did not require individual market health insurance plans to cover or even offer mental health services. Health plans looked to avoid enrolling individuals with mental health or substance use conditions by screening applicants.”Additionally, the NAMI report shows, “Even when individual market insurance was accessible, insurers effectively fined people with a history of mental health or substance use conditions. They did so by applying a 20–50 percent increase in premiums while also excluding needed mental health and substance use services.” This is done by using “lifetime caps, limits on outpatient visits, limits on inpatient days covered and restricted access to prescription drugs,” according to the National Association for Mental Illness.As an employer or co-worker, the best thing you can do to assist a colleague dealing with mental health issues is to be empathic, compassionate and to listen when needed.“The first thing is to show you care. Acknowledge what they’re feeling, so they know they’re not alone. Tell them they matter to you—that’s important to convey,” Lynn Bufka, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and Associate Executive Director of Practice, Research and Policy at the American Psychological Association Bufka, told Thrive Global.You also do not want to just listen once and move on. “Ask them if their therapy is helping, or if their therapist is up-to-date on how they’re feeling. You can also offer additional resources,” Bufka says.As a leader in your organization, make sure that what you offer employees is helpful and useful.[bctt tweet=“As a #leader in your organization, make sure that the #mentalhealth resources and support you offer employees is helpful and useful.” username=“takeleadwomen”]“Employers not only have responsibility to foster a psychologically safe and supportive culture, they should also think about how the benefits they offer can be inclusive and designed to help employees live better lives,” writes Michael Serbinis, CEO and Founder of League Inc., a next generation health platform, in Benefits Pro.“Seeking treatment can often be a hassle and there are often many hoops employees have to jump through to receive the level of care desired. Offering a virtual care solution such as health and mental health concierge services that provide users with a seamless way to manage their health can help employers proactively seek mental health treatment,” Serbinis writes.He continues, “Using a C-level executive to spread the message demonstrates that the company is serious about mental health. This is the only way to drive the systemic change that leads to truly healthy cultures.”Whether or not as an employee you choose to keep your mental health concerns to yourself, as a leader, you need to be cognizant of not only the need for privacy, but the need for support.“Perhaps the best way to destigmatize mental health in the workplace, is to ask employees what they need to be supported, and then help meet those needs,” writes Nicole Spector in NBC News.Spector writes, “Emily Nishi, the chief people officer at Lyft, says the company recently added free behavioral therapy for all full-time employees and their family members after recognizing that the need for mental health support was ‘a pervasive issue across the entire workforce.’”