Mental Health In The Workplace: A Guide To Success

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One in five adults are diagnosed with mental illness every year, and over half will not get treatment. These conditions cost employers over $100 billion and over 215 million lost workdays annually. Investing in mental health care for employees is cost-effective. For every $1 spent on mental health issues, $5 is returned to the economy. Investing in mental health care also leads to an increase in productivity, employee retention, and engagement. Long days, intense workloads, strict deadlines, and demanding bosses are just a few things that contribute to poor mental health. Thankfully, we are starting to discuss these problems more openly, and things are beginning to change. This guide outlines everything from mental health risks to prioritize your mental health at work.

Improving Mental Health at Work

What You Can Do As An Employer

Stress and poor mental health can negatively affect employees. It adversely affects job performances, productivity, communication between coworkers, engagement, and overall function. Ignoring the mental health needs of employees is also costly for employers. Employers can take several steps to make their workplace more accommodating to individuals with mental illnesses. Here are nine suggestions to take into consideration.

  1. Accommodations: Employers can take several steps to make their workplace more accommodating to employees living with mental illnesses. You can offer flexible work schedules and reduce triggers. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has additional accommodations that you can look through.

  2. All-inclusive platforms: Consider adopting a mental health platform. We love Modern Health, which provides employees access to incredible resources ranging from digital courses and meditations to a network of certified coaches and licensed therapists. They realize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for mental well-being and have personalized plans for each employee.

  3. Anonymous Surveys: Conduct anonymous surveys to learn about what your employees are thinking and how they feel about the work environment and management. With the feedback, you can identify areas that need to be changed and take the appropriate steps to improve your workplace. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a great informational guide on employee health surveys that discusses the design, delivery, and analysis of surveys.

  4. Environment: A healthy work environment is essential. Try and create a workplace culture where employees are recognized, appreciated, rewarded, and offered opportunities for career development. The health of your employees is also important. Make sure that there are healthy food options in the workplace and consider offering free gym memberships, mental health counseling, and good health insurance. Offer office-wide mindfulness, meditation, and yoga sessions to encourage good mental health practices and work-life balance.

  5. Mental Health Apps: There are dozens of apps out there that can help improve the mental health of your employees. These apps have self-assessment tools, meditation exercises, and online therapy. They make therapy and therapeutic techniques more accessible so that your employees have access whenever they need it.

  6. Open Discussions: One in four adults experience mental illness annually, and yet people are still uncomfortable talking about mental health, especially in the workplace. Normalize the discussion surrounding it by talking to employees about the importance of managing stress and addressing mental health. Having a person in leadership talk about their personal experience with mental health sends a message that it is ok to talk about mental health and reduces stigma. You can also disseminate informational materials about symptoms, treatment options, stress management techniques, and where to find help and support.

  7. Support and Service animals: Welcoming emotional support and service animal into the workplace can be beneficial to many employees. They provide therapeutic benefits to their owners and mitigate specific symptoms. To learn more about service animals, check out this article that outlines everything from how to get a service animal to knowing your rights.

  8. Train Management: Management should receive mental health training. Managers who have access to training have an enhanced understanding of mental health and are thus able to help prevent mental health issues in their workplace, according to a study. If you do not know where to start, you can bring in an outside expert to help with training. There are also several online resources. The CDC Workplace Health Resource Center has a one-stop-shop resource center for workplace health resources. They have several tools and step-by-step guides that you can use to create a health promotion program catered to your unique workplace needs.

80% of employees treated for mental illness report improved levels of work efficacy and satisfaction, according to the Center for Workplace Mental Health

Taking Action As An Employee

Employees have a lot of influence in the workplace and contribute to the company’s culture. If you are working in an unhealthy environment and want to change things, here are six things that you can do to help improve your own and fellow employees’ mental health.

  1. Advocate: Talking about mental health at work is difficult as is and advocating for better resources can be even more challenging. When bringing up the topic of mental health care to your employer, consider starting the conversation with statistics that show how investing in mental health can increase productivity and save your employer money. You can then make a few suggestions on how to improve the workplace. It can be anything from distributing informational pamphlets to bringing in an outside speaker to talk about it. You can also be an advocate by standing up for individuals with mental health disorders.

  2. Healthy Lifestyle: Work is not the only thing that affects your mental health. It is important to exercise, get enough sleep, and eat well. Consider practicing mindfulness, doing yoga, meditating, or taking a self-care day. You can introduce some of these practices to your workplace. Ask your employer if they are willing to have an office-wide yoga session or go on a hike after work.

  3. Honesty: Be honest in office-wide surveys that inquire about mental health in the workplace. If your workplace does not send out monthly surveys, consider asking management to send an anonymous one out. If you feel comfortable, consider talking to your boss about your mental health. Heads Up has a guide that discusses everything from the pros and cons of telling your employer to personal stories and rights. Remember, discriminating against someone living with a mental health disorder is illegal.

  4. Participate: If your employer is offering free resources or putting on events, be a part of them. Participating and being part of the discussion gives you the opportunity to educate yourself and, in the future, inform others. Doing these things with your coworkers also creates a sense of teamwork and community.

  5. Talk About It: If you are comfortable doing so, start a conversation about mental health and share your own experiences with other employees to reduce the stigma surrounding the topic. On the other side, listen to what other employees have to say and do not discount their feelings and experiences.

  6. Use Free Apps: Apps can help you improve your mental health in the workplace. There are hundreds to choose from that address several mental health disorders. There are also more general ones focusing on meditation, mindfulness, sleeping schedules, and more. When you find an app that you love, you can suggest it to the workplace so that everyone can benefit from it.

83% of U.S. workers have work related stress, according to The American Institute of Stress.

Mental Health Risks

Several factors can contribute to poor mental health in the workplace and lead to higher turnover and a reduction in productivity. Risks usually stem from things like workplace structures, interactions, managerial staff, and available support. Here are X risks that employers and employees should be aware of.

  • Bullying and Harassment: A workplace should be free of mistreatment and hostility. To learn more about workplace harassment, take a look at the U.S. Department of Labor. Read more about what workplace bullying is, its effects, and how to eliminate it at the Center for Workplace Mental Health.

  • Micromanagement: 70% of micromanaged employees considered quitting their jobs, according to a Trinity Solutions study. Having limited to no control in decision making and what you do can be detrimental to your mental health. Learn more about signs of micromanagement at Honestly.

  • Resources: Not being supported by your company and its managerial staff can be incredibly challenging. It is hard to succeed without the right resources. You can be an incredibly smart, driven person and possess all of the skills needed to be successful. However, without the support from your boss and the right materials, you may fail.

  • Silence: When a company’s culture is discriminatory, toxic, or unsupportive, employees living with mental illnesses can feel like they have to hide that part of them. Conversations that are negative about mental illnesses also make people more uncomfortable to talk. When you are afraid and hiding something from coworkers, your condition could become worse.

  • Type of work: Inflexible working hours and time off can negatively impact the mental health of employees. The industry you work in can also affect mental health. Mental Health America ranked retail, manufacturing, and the food and beverage industry worst for workplace mental health.

  • Unclear Responsibilities and Expectations: When an employer’s expectations of you are unclear, it is easier to do the wrong thing and get ridiculed for it. Employees often avoid having difficult or uncomfortable conversations with their boss, which makes this a challenging problem to address. A lack of clarity also affects employers. If members of your team do not know who is accountable, you risk incomplete and poor outcomes. This causes stress for all involved.

  • Unreasonable Expectations: Some employers will give employees tasks to complete that are not suitable for their experience, skills, and education. Being set up to fail is never a good feeling. Also, when an employer gives an employer tasks underneath their skill level, it can feel demeaning and like they do not trust you.

  • Work-Life-Balance: Creating a healthy separation between your professional and personal life is extremely important. Individuals with a healthy work-life balance avoid burnout and are more productive. Take time to take care of your emotional and physical health because it will make you a better employee. A good place to start is establishing boundaries. For example, stop taking your laptops or tablets to bed.

Mental Health Apps

More and more employees are fighting for mental health programs in the workplace, and many companies are turning to the app store for answers. If you are an employer, consider getting office subscriptions to the following mental health apps to improve your employee’s emotional well beings.

Workplace Apps

Mental health apps are becoming increasingly popular. If you are looking for a cost-efficient way to start an office-wide mental wellness program, the following six apps are a great place to start. They will help improve your employees’ mental health and create a happier, more productive workplace.

Aloe Bud: Aloe Bud is a free self-care pocket companion that encourages its users to practice self-care activities. Aloe Bud helps individuals hydrate, move, breathe, and stay motivated, refreshed, and stimulated throughout the day. One user wrote, “I’m someone who really struggles with self-care and keeping track of the things that I do, and this helps so much. You can write things down on the go when you don’t have your journal and look back at them later if you need to. 10/10 would aloe bud again.”

Fabulous: This science-based self-care app helps individuals increase their energy levels, be more focused, lose weight, and sleep better by building healthy rituals into their lives. Fabulous focuses on everything from exercising and yoga to deep work and meditation.

Joyable: Joyable is the perfect place to get support for your entire team. Joyable connects people with a dedicated coach and a two-month course based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). With Joyable you can access proven help, anytime, anywhere. With Joyable you will have happier employees and lower turnover rates. One member wrote, “I’m not afraid to talk to my bosses and I’m not afraid to talk to strangers. I’ve got confidence back again. It’s completely changed me.”

Noisli: Noisili helps individuals increase their productivity and relax by blocking out annoying noises. You can use the app to mix different sounds and create your perfect work environment. You can choose from sounds like rain, water streams, relaxing waves, fireplace, rumbling train, coffee shop, and white, pink, and brown noise. You can activate as many sounds as you want to adjust the volume of each to create your perfect sound environment and boost your focus.

Youper: Youper uses artificial intelligence to personalize different techniques to fit its users’ needs and helps them calm their minds, sleep better, and become more productive and happier. It also uses conversations based on therapy techniques and mindfulness to help people monitor and improve their emotional health. 80% of the users experience a reduction in negative moods after just one conversion.

Meditation Apps

Meditation apps are a great tool to help with anxiety and stress. If you are having a stressful day at work, get your smartphone, find a quiet area, and try meditating. With apps offering meditations starting at just five minutes, you can fit a meditation section into your break. Here are five amazing meditation apps that will help you increase your focus, relax, destress, and sleep better.

Calm: Voted app of the year in 2017, Calm teaches its users how to meditate, has sleep stories to help them fall asleep, and breathing exercises to help them relax. One user wrote, “ I struggle with falling asleep, used it last night and passed out before the end of the session. I’m a fan! Great Job!”

Headspace: This award-winning research-backed app has hundreds of guided meditations and mindfulness techniques to help with stress, focus, anxiety, and sleep. Studies found that 30 days of Headspace lowers stress by 32%, and four sessions reduce burnout by 14% and increase focus by 14%. Join companies like LinkedIn and Adobe and start using this app.

Insight Timer: Insight Timer is a meditation app with 30,000 free meditations and music tracks. It was voted App of the Year by TIME magazine and Women’s Health. Insight Timer has guided meditations and talks led by the world’s greatest meditation and mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, psychologists, and professors from top universities. Whether you are a beginner or experienced practitioner, this app caters to everyone.

Journey: Named “the best meditation app for beginners” by Shape.com, Journey has live video meditation classes. They upload new meditation classes daily, have 100’s of themed courses, and the opportunities to interact with the world’s best coaches and a global supportive community. Companies like NIKE, Facebook, Spotify, and Disney use Journey to reduce burnout, turnover, and stress-related illness among their employees.

Stop, Breathe, & Think: Stop, Breathe, & Think is an emotional wellness platform designed for the “under 25.”They encourage its users to stop what they are doing, practice mindful breathing, and to broaden their perspective. Users take a survey that evaluates their mood and then choose a guided meditation based on the results.

1 in 13 people will develop post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their life, according to The Recovery Village.

Mental Health Support Groups

Having a mental health disorder can make you feel like you are alone. However, 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. has a diagnosable mental disorder annually. Finding a support system can be incredibly helpful. Hearing other individuals’ personal experiences can make you feel less alone and allow you to learn from and with them. Support groups will enable you to receive emotional support that can be challenging to find elsewhere. Here are several in-person and virtual support groups that you can look through.

In Person Support Groups

In-person support groups are a great way to form a community with people who live near you. They allow individuals to share personal experiences, coping strategies, and to ask for advice. Talking with others who can understand aspects of what you are going through also enables you to improve your understanding of your own mental health disorder. Before attending in-person groups, you can call or email them to make sure that they are still open and to get additional information. You can ask what a typical meeting entails, if you can bring someone along for support, if you have to participate or are allowed to observe, or if there is a fee. Here is a great guide that explains how to evaluate a support group so that you can ensure you are going to a good one. If you are still struggling to find an in-person support group, here are four great ones with locations across the U.S. that you can look through.

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): At ADDA, you can use their support group listings to search for groups near you. If you cannot find one, their website helps walk you through how to start one. ADAA does not update groups regularly. So, make sure that you confirm a group’s information with the listed contact or website before attending.

  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA): DBSA recognizes that support is essential to recovery and that hearing another person say “I’ve been there” is incredibly helpful. They offer both in-person and online support groups to help you find support near you. You find in-person support groups in your community with their chapter by state directory.

  • Psychology Today: Psychology Today has detailed listings of mental health professionals and support groups across the country. You can narrow your search by issues, sexuality, gender, age, and types of therapy. You can also search by your city or zip code to find the nearest support groups, therapists, psychiatrists, or treatment centers to you.

  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): NAMI has 650 State Organizations and Affiliates across the country that offer free support and educational programs. You can filter their support groups by issues, sexuality, gender, age, and types of therapy. This filter is a great feature if you are looking for a more targeted group. You can also use your zip code to find your local NAMI Affiliate and what kinds of programs and support they offer.

Online Support Groups

There are several benefits to joining online support groups. Unlike in-person groups, you can connect with people 24/7 if they are online. If you do not have internet access at your home, public libraries usually have internet and computers that you can use. Online groups are more affordable and doable for many as public transportation to in-person meetings can be expensive and finding time to go can be challenging. There are also a few negatives to online support groups. Since they are not always moderated and run by professionals, you risk misinformation and also risk miscommunication since people cannot hear your tone of voice. It is also harder to commit to an online group than an in-person group.

There are many incredible online support groups out there that have changed the lives of many. Here are 5 to consider.

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): ADAA has an anonymous online anxiety and depression support group with over 20,000 global subscribers. ADAA has created a safe and supportive place where individuals with anxiety and their friends and family can share experiences and information. You have the choice to start a conversation, join an existing one, or post about your journey. They also have an IOS app for iPhones.

  • AnxietySpace: AnxietySpace has several anxiety disorder forums. These include but are not limited to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia, Specific Phobia, PTSD, and OCD. In these forums, individuals share coping mechanisms, ask each other questions, and share stories.

  • Mental Health America (MHA): MHA is a discussion community that allows you to connect with individuals impacted by mental health conditions and get support. You can scroll through a discussion board where users post their stories, advice, thoughts, struggles, and other things about mental health disorders. MHA also has a great online anonymous screening tool for anxiety and work health. Individuals can use this tool and see their immediate results, education, resources, and linkage to affiliates.

  • Supportgroups.com: Supportgroups.com has several online support groups. Their top support groups include depression, anxiety, loneliness, abuse, alcohol, eating disorder, self-harm, PTSD, bipolar, bulimia, along with several others.

  • The Tribe: The Tribe is an online support group for individuals coping with fear and stress associated with anxiety disorders. At the Tribe, you can connect and share stories with other people living with anxiety. Members of The Tribe’s anxiety support group get access to a dedicated activity stream, forum, and chat rooms. They also get access to wellness tools, including a wellness tracker, friend reminders, mood mapping, and sending kudos.

  • Turn2me: Turn2me hosts online support groups for a variety of mental health issues. Their support groups are free and run by qualified professionals who ensure that everyone is respected and heard. Their groups also require booking in advance since places are limited.

  • 7 Cups: 7 Cups offers free emotional support to users and connects them to caring listeners. They have helped over 25 million people. No matter who you are or what you are going through, they are there to make you feel heard. They have free 24/7-hour chats with caring listeners, chat rooms, forums, self-help guides and growth paths with proven tips and advice, and affordable online therapy and counseling with licensed therapists for $150 per month.

Employees with a high risk of depression had the highest health care costs, according to the CDC.

Help With Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders usually respond well to treatment. It is important to seek help. Below are a few resources to look through if you want to find help.

  • BetterHelp: Online counseling can be an excellent option for individuals with mental health disorders. BetterHelp’s mission is to make professional counseling accessible, affordable, and convenient so that anyone struggling with life’s challenges can get help anytime, anywhere. 98% of their clients made significant progress, and 94% prefer BetterHelp over face to face therapy. They have a growing list of over 2,000 online mental health therapists, and more than 500,000 people have signed up to use their online counseling services.

  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a free, confidential National Helpline for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders available 24/7, 365 days a year in English and Spanish. SAMHSA has support groups, community-based organizations, and offers referrals to local treatment facilities. You can reach them at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889.

  • HelpGuide: HelpGuide has resources for addiction, ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, grief, loss, personality disorders, PTSD, trauma, schizophrenia, and suicide prevention. They offer guidance and encouragement along with helping you understand the challenges you face, make informed decisions, and take positive steps.

  • NAMI HelpLine: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a free nationwide helpline that provides information, resource referrals and support to people living with a mental health condition. This line is also open to friends, family members, caregivers, mental health providers and the public. You can call the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email info@nami.org if you have any questions or want help finding support and resources. The line is available Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET.

  • Therapists: Therapy can be an immense help to individuals. Here are two directories of mental health professionals that you can look through.

    1. Psychology Today: Psychology Today has a detailed list of mental health professionals across the United States. They have therapists, psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups.
    2. Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): The ADAA has a directory of licensed mental health providers specializing in anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and related disorders. You can enter your address and a radius that you are willing to travel. They also have locations around the globe.

Devon Feuer
Devon Feuer
Author