We have come a long way in the realm of mental healthcare at work, with huge leaps being made due to a mental health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Spikes in stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance abuse issues have occurred in the past years compounded by economic insecurity and social unrest brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. While many employees left their jobs to stay at home to care for children out of the classroom, others were let go as companies made cuts to contend with the plummeting economy. Then the state of employment made an upswing in 2021 as the pandemic started coming under control and companies were scrambling for new hires. In spite of a thriving economy workers are still dealing with the trauma of the past couple of years - and beyond.
Due these events and past traumas the state of employee mental health is at an all-time low and is creating a downward rippling effect that is creating an impact on the world of work. The challenges of coping with mental health related issues in addition to the demands of a job can lead to lowered productivity, loss of time at work, income, and loss of employment. Individuals struggling with depression are five times more likely to lose their jobs than those without depression. Mental health struggles at work are clearly not new, but have been exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic. Positive changes that have occurred with regards to mental health at the workplace have been employees who advocate for working conditions that support good mental health and employer sponsored health benefits and employee assistance programs (EAPS) that support mental health.
Mental health support at work became a high priority in 2021 in response to a secondary pandemic of mental health issues. The prioritization of mental healthcare at work has occurred due in a large part to the need to assist employees struggling with mental health issues, to retain workers, and also due to potential hires’ demand for mental healthcare benefits. Many major companies recognized the need to provide mental healthcare benefits and support programs to their employees - and adapted to those needs by providing mental health insurance benefits and programs of support. For companies that have not yet jumped on the bandwagon of providing healthcare to employee’s other positive changes can still occur with regards to mental healthcare. Employers across the board can set a positive example of both good mental health self-care for their employees and create an open environment that encourages staff to express their concerns.
Employers can take the lead in positive mental self-care by leading staff meetings devoted to mental health topics, checking in with teams to see how staff are doing, encouraging professional development along the lines of mental healthcare, develop point people that staff can go to talk and express their concerns in the vein of onsite counselors. Another important way to promote mental health at work is to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues and also with seeking help for mental health issues. Staff education and professional development will go a long way in this regard, as well as employers modeling their own mental health self-care, being open about mental health issues that they may also struggle with and seek help for. To aid staff with the additional roles of caregiver, which can be very taxing on top of holding down a job, employers can create flexibility in scheduling, work from home opportunities, additional paid time off, and mental healthcare for dependents.
Mental healthcare at work has come a long way since the start of the decade. There have been huge advances made in the realms of prioritizing and providing mental healthcare and support for employees. There is much more discussion to be done in the realm of BIPOC and women’s mental healthcare at work - and much more work to do! Reach out to us if you have a mental health concern and let us connect you with the right resources which can help you. 708-848-1700