Workplace Wellness – Mental Health Initiatives

Mental Health initiatives #wellness

Mental health controls our ability to cope with the stresses of everyday life. Mental health is an area of wellness that is often over looked, down played, and as a result under diagnosed and highly ignored. It is a fact that most people pay closer attention to physical health while not realizing the close connection between mental and physical health. Consequently, mental health issues become the silent cause of other physical ailments as well as costly time away from work. Creating awareness about mental health issues and an environment that is conducive to a positive state of mental health can and will save employees from mental lapses that are costly on their jobs. It will also save employers the cost of these mental lapses.

Mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression are routinely listed as top concerns in employee health surveys, and are the second leading cause of workplace absenteeism. Even moderate depressive or anxiety symptoms can affect work performance and productivity. Most employees agree that their mental and personal problems spill over into their professional lives and have a direct impact on their job performance. It is in the employer’s best interest to address mental health as part of a wellness program.

Most mental illnesses are highly treatable; however, untreated mental illness can increase the cost to employers because of absenteeism, work impairment and disability benefits. Estimated costs for untreated and mistreated mental illness total over $150 billion in lost productivity each year in the United States. The costs for workers who receive treatment for their conditions are significantly lower than for employees who do not get treated. Effective treatment can save costs for employers and can improve quality of life for all employees.

The good news is that there are ways to help your employee population address mental health issues. There are a number of things that can be done in addition to providing an employee assistance program. Employers that support treatment of mental illnesses will not just generate cost savings in improved employee engagement and well-being – other positive results are higher product quality, better cost control, greater employee loyalty and a healthier workplace. Employers can do more to promote integrated mental and physical health care by creating supportive workplaces that encourage self-screening and connect employees to resources.

  • Provide materials and messages about mental health, mental illnesses, suicide prevention, trauma and health promotion through brochures, fact sheets, paycheck stuffers and intranet.
  • Offer confidential screenings for illnesses such as depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder.
  • Encourage the use of telephone help lines.
  • Offer a variety of mental health presentations and trainings for all staff with an emphasis on prevention, treatment and recovery messages.
  • Offer stress reduction presentations on topics like conflict resolution, managing multiple priorities, project planning, personal finance planning and parenting.
  • Provide flexible scheduling for access to classes during or after work. Classes could include yoga, meditation, physical activity and self-help groups.
  • Create and support a mental health-friendly work environment that accommodates employees who are returning to work after receiving mental health treatment. Allow schedule flexibility to accommodate treatments and appointments.
  • Educate managers and supervisors in recognizing mental health as a factor in performance issues. Address mental health issues specific to their needs.
  • Create policies and practices that provide guidance to supervisors and managers on how to address performance issues. Provide mental health consultation and information, and improve their skills in supervising an employee with mental health issues.
  • Review policies and practices concerning employee privacy and confidentiality, accommodation, return to work, HIPAA and ADA guidelines.
  • Evaluate the workplace environment, organization, and culture with a focus on reducing workplace stress, workload issues and performance reviews. Address employee concerns.
  • Provide employee assistance coordinators to help obtain information about resources in the community.
  • Provide and maintain comprehensive health insurance coverage, which includes mental health in employee benefits packages. Include screening, brief intervention and referral as a covered evidence-based benefit. Offer referral mechanisms to connect employees to mental health treatment services.

Mental health is an important part of everyone’s life. Be sure to include mental health awareness in any workplace wellness program that you provide. If ignored it could silently keep your employees away from production and reduce your bottom line. If acknowledged, it could make a huge difference in the lives of your employees, as well as your bottom line.