Mental health can be a difficult topic to broach in conversation, especially in the workplace. As the broader conversation surrounding mental health continues to grow, it’s important for employers to think about how best to destigmatize the topic and create a workplace culture that prioritizes employee well-being – especially as September is Suicide Prevention Month.
The Surgeon General reports that 76% of U.S. workers report at least one mental health symptom and 84% say that their workplace contributed to at least one mental health challenge. Given those numbers, it’s clear that mental health should be a key priority for all employers despite the complex, inherently personal nature of the issue.
The Harvard Business Review has published multiple articles on the subject of employer-employee discussions on mental health, emphasizing the importance of managers modeling healthy behaviors, encouraging routine check-ins with team members, and being willing to be vulnerable.
With that said, it’s equally important to update internal policies where possible – whether that be through increasing flexibility for working hours or changing rules surrounding paid leave. The American Psychological Association created a more fulsome repository of actions employers can take to support employee mental health, ranging from the aforementioned types of policies to DEI frameworks and health insurance reexaminations.
Not only is mental health an individually complex issue, but it affects different communities in different ways. The Trevor Project, an organization whose mission is to end suicide among young people in the LGBTQ+ community, provides resources for mental health support more broadly, but also for how to approach intersectional conversations. Therapy for Black Girls houses a tool specifically to help Black women find therapists in their area, and provides a space for discussion of mental health issues as they apply specifically to that community.
Employers and employees alike will benefit from workplace cultures that foster comfort and communication surrounding mental health. Especially coming off the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever for those in managerial roles to extend a hand and encourage employees to speak up if they aren’t OK – and to model those behaviors themselves.
RALIANCE is a trusted adviser for organizations committed to building cultures that are safe, equitable, and respectful. RALIANCE offers unparalleled expertise in serving survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse which drives our mission to help organizations across sectors create inclusive environments for all. For more information, please visit www.RALIANCE.org.