- Stress is becoming a dangerous norm in the workplace, which can lead to serious mental health problems.
- A major concern is that many people don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work for fear of discrimination.
- The best way to support mental health in the workplace is to talk about it, which is why it’s so important to create a workplace culture that’s inclusive and supportive.
The numbers speak for themselves and it’s time that companies start to actively address mental health in the workplace. Our stress levels are so high that people have begun to accept stress as a normal part of their lives, with 47% saying it’s normal for them to feel stress and anxiety at work, according to Capita’s 2019 Employee Insights Report. The World Health Organization (WHO), for its part, has even recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon.
Though this is common, it’s not normal; and poor mental health can have a strong negative impact on our productivity levels, but more importantly, on our overall health. Left unaddressed, mental health issues can quickly escalate, leading to more serious problems like substance abuse, mood disorders, and committing suicide (according to the National Institute for Mental Health, over 90% of suicides have depression or other mental illnesses as factors).
If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.
According to the WHO, one approach to creating a happier, healthier workplace is to address mental health problems regardless of cause. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that, as there is still stigma around the topic and individuals often don’t feel comfortable enough in the workplace to talk about their mental health for fear of discrimination and shame.
In fact, 59% of Capita’s survey respondents stated that when they have been stressed at work, they haven’t raised the issue with their line manager. This challenge is furthered by the fact that individuals are reluctant to share their mental health issues with managers and colleagues alike.
This is especially unfortunate considering that simply talking to someone about mental health issues can help significantly.
Let’s Talk About It
Late last year, during the UK’s largest annual conference on mental health “This Can Happen”, Prince William noted that his key to dealing with traumatic experiences and feeling over the edge was to talk it through with colleagues. According to the Harvard Business Review, “he pointed to the important role that leaders can play in supporting mental health by sharing their own stories — and making it safe for those who work in their organization to be open about their mental health challenges.”
Talking with someone can help individuals sort through their feelings, put things in perspective, and release tension. Sometimes, just sharing your thoughts and feelings outloud can help you find your own answers. Though talking might not solve the problem from its root, it can help people cope and make them feel better and happier.
This is why it’s important to create a workplace culture where people feel safe and comfortable talking about their stress, anxiety, and any other mental health issues they are dealing with. This type of environment will make it easier for people to speak up about their concerns without fear or shame. It will also make it easier for people to find support.
According to Capita’s survey, 49% of workers feel that their managers may not know what to do if they talked to them about a mental health issue. So even if a company is willing to address mental health, the effort won’t be as effective if people don’t open up first.
To encourage people to open up, company leaders, managers, and executives must feel comfortable opening up themselves and talking about it.
Writing for HBR, Barbara Harvey, managing director at Accenture Research, argues that:
“Senior leaders can make significant inroads in changing this perception by starting the conversation — talking about their own experiences and the company’s desire to actively help. In a study we completed earlier in 2018, just 14% of respondents had heard a senior leader talking about the importance of mental health. Just one in 10 had heard a senior leader talk about being personally affected.”
Just talk about it. It’s a simple, yet powerful and effective way to create a workplace culture that actively supports mental health.