As National Mental Health month draws to a close, let’s not forget about our employees who suffer from mental health issues. While it’s great to spotlight the importance of mental well-being, employers need to continue to focus on and help their employees who deal with these issues daily. And there’s a good chance you don’t know who they all are because according to The National Institute of Health nearly one in five U.S. adults – about 52.9 million people – live with a mental illness. Here’s the kicker: Only about half receive the help they need.
Steps for improving mental health wellness
How can employers help?
- Make training mandatory for all company leaders. It’ll help them be more aware of mental health issues and more invested in improving employees’ well-being. Then train all supervisors and managers on how to recognize signs of emotional distress. That way when they see someone struggling or stressed they can offer suggestions like going for a walk.
- Don’t wait until open enrollment to talk about the mental health benefits you offer. Take every opportunity you can to spread the word about good practices and the benefits you have that can help employees achieve them. Consider offering workshops on handling stress, and promote your benefits during it. The more HR and leaders talk about mental health benefits, the less of a stigma will be attached to them.
- Offer employees apps that help them deal with stress and other issues that affect it.
- Create opportunities for employees to connect with each other. You can do this through social events, message boards, etc. The more opportunities you can offer the more connections employees will make. When employees have positive connections through work, they’re less vulnerable to the negative effects of stress.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Uncertainty creates anxiety. By being open and honest with employees, they’re better able to handle the stressors of work and life.
- Model healthy behaviors. Employees need to see that their managers make their self-care and wellness a priority, whether that’s scheduling a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day or taking a walk during lunch.
- Offer flexibility. Employees need to know they won’t be penalized for handling issues or problems during the day. Life happens. Let your employees know you realize this and trust them.
Finally, when things are serious, let employees know they can use FMLA leave.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division recently published additional resources for workers on their FMLA rights for serious mental health conditions and employers on compliance issues:
- Fact Sheet #280: Mental Health Conditions and the FMLA
- Frequently Asked Questions on the FMLA’s mental health provisions
- Blog – The FMLA: Essential for Mental Health-Friendly Workplaces