If you are living with a mental health condition like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, you are not alone! A staggering 52.9 million U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2020 and 14.2 million experienced serious mental illness.
Increasing levels of such mental health conditions have brought new awareness to these complicated and often misunderstood psychological disorders, but discussing them in the workplace is frequently still avoided.
Organizations big and small must create opportunities for more open dialogue about mental health to combat stigma and provide a more inclusive environment.
Why is Inclusive Mental Health in the Workplace Important?
Between COVID-19, heated civil rights disagreements, political upheaval, and everything else we’ve been through in the past couple of years, it’s no surprise that the number of people living with mental health conditions is going up.
But the disproportionate effect on underrepresented groups makes it necessary to shed new light on mental health inequities. Individual differences such as race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, and familial responsibilities can come with difficulties other groups don’t experience, taking a toll on mental health and well-being.
Healthcare benefits are crucial and necessary, but they may not go far enough to ensure that more adversely affected groups receive the mental health care they need. Not only that but fear of discrimination and harassment may prevent employees from seeking help in the first place. This sense of isolation and exclusion can make their illness worse.
Studies show that mental health has a significant impact on work performance, and the work environment has a significant impact on mental health. Productivity, loyalty, and overall happiness at work are all tied to mental health. Improve one to improve the other.
There is a pressing need for businesses to adapt their policies and procedures to be more inclusive and to provide comprehensive support for all employees.
How to Achieve Inclusive Mental Health in the Workplace
Organizations must come together and combine their resources to create more inclusive policies, programs, and environments.
The ultimate goal should be to normalize conversations about mental health and well-being since the criticisms that often result are what prevent many employees from speaking up about their symptoms and seeking the treatment and support they need.
One way to normalize the conversation is to educate employees and bring awareness to the topic. Businesses can work with outside organizations to provide company-wide training. Managers especially should learn how to discuss employees’ mental health concerns respectfully and compassionately and know how to provide resources to help employees manage their conditions.
Create an Inclusive Culture
Businesses should create a culture that allows individuals to freely express their mental health needs, knowing they will receive the support and understanding they need to cope with their challenges and won’t be penalized.
Informal cooperation is already occurring in many organizations, but businesses can do a lot more to ensure diverse groups of employees receive the mental health resources they need. Leaders must take steps to make the workplace more inclusive:
- Recognition of individual needs and fair treatment of everyone
- Encouragement of sharing and open discussion about needs and experiences
- Enhanced training to ensure all employees have an understanding of mental health inclusion
- Use of inclusive language to avoid alienating employees with mental health conditions
Mental Wellness Benefits
Workplace benefits programs can certainly do more to meet the mental health needs of all employees by uncovering gaps in coverage and resources. Employee assistance programs should ensure therapists, clinicians, and other support professionals understand cultural diversity and should enlist a variety of options to choose from. Employee resource groups and on-site counseling are additional strategies companies can use to provide robust mental health support to employees.
Promote Healthy Work/Life Integration
There’s no such thing as work-life balance, but there are ways to integrate them to reduce stress and promote happiness and productivity. Things like flexible work hours and the ability to work from home when possible help employees feel valued and trusted, increasing their morale.
Monitor Employee Morale
Leaders can’t know what to improve if they aren’t aware of what needs improvement. Organizations should measure employee engagement and well-being using anonymous engagement surveys to uncover unmet needs, care access inequalities, and problem areas in the company.
Share the results of the survey and invite open dialogue to create an action plan to fix what’s wrong to make employees more productive and happier. Explore mental health inclusion with BetterHelp: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/inclusive-mental-health/
Society’s focus on mental health is providing helpful data and insights about how mental health affects underrepresented groups according to differences such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs.
We can use this momentum to create a more inclusive mental health culture in the workplace that promotes awareness, openness, and well-being.
About the Author:
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.