- Research suggests that global rates of depression and anxiety have increased 15-20% during the last decade. But 4 in 10 adults with mental health disorders do not seek treatment.
- Wellness is now one of the biggest focal points of the workplace, but there is still much that companies and brands can do to take care of their people.
- Here, we run through some of the ways in which companies and workspace operators can help address mental health concerns in the workplace.
According to the World Economic Forum, mental health disorders are expected to cost nations $16.3 trillion between 2011 and 2030. In the US, approximately one in five adults has a mental disorder. The number is reportedly increasing, in the US and globally. A report found that global rates of depression and anxiety have increased 15 to 20% during the last decade.
The bad news is that people do not seek help and treatment. Four in 10 adults with mental health disorders do not seek treatment, which can make the condition worsen. Poor mental health not only affects a person’s individual wellbeing, but it also negatively impacts productivity levels.
During a webinar hosted by essensys this past week, Liz Elam, Executive Director of GCUC stated that the biggest workplace trend of today is wellness, highlighting that it’s not just a trend, but rather a focus. Companies and brands need to start taking care of the health of their people in order to excel in the future.
Findings from the report “Mental Health: A Workforce Crisis” published by the American Heart Association’s CEO Roundtable confirm Elam’s statement.
“The costs of depression and other mental health disorders are often underestimated because the indirect costs such as work absenteeism and poor performance at work (presenteeism) are costlier than the direct costs associated with medical care and prescription drugs.”
In other words, the cost of not tackling wellness and mental health is higher than investing in prevention and treatment. In fact, the report found that for mental health, “many evidence-based treatments can save $2 to $4 for every dollar invested in prevention and early intervention.”
One key issue to highlight with regard to mental health is that it’s not something that people have or don’t have. “Studies have shown that people can experience mental health symptoms on a continuum or spectrum. While individuals may not have all the symptoms that comprise a clinical mental disorder, they are likely to experience one or more symptoms of mental illness throughout their lifetime.”
Therefore, people should be able to address mental health at all times, including while in the workplace. For example, stress management programs have been shown to effectively reduce stress and improve overall mental health. These programs can also prevent burnout and reduce feelings of anxiety.
Tackling Mental Health in the Workplace
To tackle mental health, companies need to think about individual and organizational strategies that they can implement in the work environment. “Individual strategies focus on promoting protective factors and reducing risk factors at the employee level.” For example, this can be to provide workers with access to digital mental health programs, web-based or apps, that can help professionals cope with mental health issues or that can provide insights, knowledge, and skills on how to handle work-related stress more effectively.
At the organizational level, companies need to think about their policies, leadership, and programs. One of the key takeaways from the CEO Roundtable report is that those in leadership positions can greatly influence how comfortable and willing people feel to talk about mental health. According to the report, “only 53% feel encouraged to talk about their mental health with supervisors, free from fear of stigma.”
“Leaders demonstrate visible and proactive actions to build a diverse and inclusive culture that supports a mental health-friendly workplace.” These leaders should be able to communicate and advocate for a company’s mental health policies, medical benefits, available programs and resources.
There are various companies that can help address mental health in the workplace. Below you will find four effective ones.
1. Physical Activity Programs.
Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. Encouraging people to move around the workplace can help reduce sitting time. Physical activity is a protective mental health factor; sedentary behavior on the other hand is a risk factor of mental health.
Suggested reading: “The Office is Killing US: How Workplace Design Helps Combat Sedentary Behavior”
2. Digital Mental Health Interventions.
Companies are increasingly turning to digital methods to address mental health as they offer individual tailoring and feedback. They are also an affordable and effective option to reduce stress and anxiety, especially among at-risk employees. Some examples of these digital interventions include meditation apps. Specifically, the report found that shorter interventions that use SMS and email to engage users and that use persuasive technology are the most effective at improving mental health-related outcomes.
3. Assistance Programs.
“Employee assistance programs that use counseling and multi-component interventions can be effective at reducing absenteeism, presenteeism, well-being and workplace functioning.”
4. Stigma Reduction Programs.
These are organization-level programs that seek to promote mental health awareness. For these programs to be effective they require ongoing training. This type of program seeks to increase the number of self-reported mental health issues and outcomes in order to encourage individuals to seek help and treatment.
Addressing mental health in the workplace will improve worker productivity, reduce healthcare costs, improve mental and physical health outcomes, and improve a company’s overall culture and organizational climate.