We at Career Contacts are proud advocates of mental health awareness and wellbeing in the workplace, so in recognition of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we’ve compiled some useful information that can help facilitate a dialogue around mental health in the office.
Something important to keep in mind when considering the topic of mental health in the workplace is that mental health matters affect both employers and employees alike, so engaging in an open conversation about it can be helpful to everyone and can be instrumental in creating an office environment in which everybody feels safe and heard.MENTAL HEALTH DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE
Aside from being associated with higher rates of disability and unemployment, mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression can also become evident in employers’ and employees’ communication, engagement, physical capabilities, daily functioning and overall job performance. This may explain why companies worldwide are recognizing the importance of addressing this topic, and why many have introduced programs that promote both physical and mental health in the workplace.
While it may seem like one more thing to add to the agenda, there have been numerous examples of these kinds of programs and workshops having proven success! This could be because, while it may not be the first place you’d think of as a hub of health culture, the office can be the perfect place to promote a culture of mental health! Being that workplaces already have the groundwork laid for communication structure, a built-in social support network, and a system of incentives and data for tracking progress in things such as healthy habits, the workplace is primed for dialogue around the importance of mental health.
Wondering where to begin? Here are some actionable steps that employers can take to start creating a culture of mental health awareness in their offices:
Provide informational materials (brochures, videos, etc.) about the signs and symptoms of mental health issues along with resources for seeking treatment
This is a great way to spark the conversation around mental health matters and lets your employees know that their workplace is a safe and welcoming environment for anyone experiencing mental health related matters.
Supply employees with mental health tools, such as self-assessment charts to keep track of how they’re feeling
Not everyone is yet equipped with the right language to describe their feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Consider reaching out to a mental health professional to ask them about what tools and charts they would recommend.
Support employees by offering mental health screenings at subsidized or no cost
This is an excellent place to start for any office environment. A mental health screening done by a professional is another way to let your employees know that they’re cared about.
Consider providing extended health insurance that covers a wide variety of mental health resources
Certain mental health resources such as counseling and medications may not be covered by regular health care, so providing extended health insurance to employees is an excellent way to make sure that their needs are met.
Introduce programs and seminars that provide techniques for stress management
As previously mentioned, mental health workshops and seminars have widely been successful in contributing to the dialogue around mental health in the workplace! They can also provide essential information to employees about how to manage job and home related stress.
Designate quiet areas around the office for de-stressing and relaxation
Creating an environment where employees are welcome to have a few minutes to themselves (to meditate, relax, etc.) can be very beneficial in creating a healthy, balanced workplace.
Provide training to managers on how to recognize signs that an employee may be struggling and train them on how to provide resources to anyone that is in need of support
This can also be done through holding workshops and is a great way to facilitate a healthy and safe workspace.
Provide an office-wide open and supportive environment where employees feel safe and encouraged to discuss work-related stress
It can be intimidating to come forward with concerns as an employee. By creating a culture of openness and honesty within your workplace, you’ll be doing providing your employees with a network in which they can feel safe and supported.
Wondering where to begin if you’re an employee? Here are some steps that you can take within your workplace and within your everyday life that can help keep a focus on mental health awareness:
Become a wellness advocate and discussion leader in your workplace
You can do this by receiving mental health advocacy training or by simply taking the initiative to start the dialogue about mental health among your coworkers.
If they haven’t already, try encouraging your employers to take the above steps within the workplace
Start by compiling this list along with your own resources and approaching the topic with a trusted superior.
When your employer introduces mental health programs and workshops, show your support by participating and encouraging others to participate as well
This is a great way to get involved with mental health awareness in your workplace and can be a great way to connect with your colleagues!
Help to lift the stigma around mental health by sharing your own experiences when an appropriate time is offered
The stigma surrounding the topic of mental health can be intimidating, but by opening up about your story and experiences, you can help to normalize a conversation that everyone can relate to in some way.
Form connections with co-workers and make sure to keep an open mind and offer your support when a colleague shares their own experiences
Creating a network of support and a sense of community is an important part of mental health and wellbeing. Getting to know your coworkers both in and outside of work can be monumental in forming connections with and supporting one another in your mental health journeys.
Do your best to implement healthy habits in your personal life that can help you set an example in your workplace
Learning about mental health and how to support your own wellbeing can be invaluable in your personal life and can help you to feel prepared in sharing that knowledge with your colleagues.
If you find yourself showing signs or symptoms of struggling with mental health related matters, reach out or ask for help from someone trusted
Reaching out, while it can sometimes feel intimidating, is paramount in caring for your mental health and is a vital step in the right direction for your overall wellbeing.
Although it may still feel taboo to discuss in the work environment, addressing the topic of mental health is crucially important to the makings of a supportive office atmosphere. By taking these steps together, we can introduce another level of safety, honesty, and community within the workplace.
If you are struggling with mental health and need additional resources and support, here are a few places for you to turn:
Canadian Mental Health Organizations:
US Mental Health Support: