Workplace Mental Health

For more than a decade I found myself at work witnessing, hearing about, or personally experiencing behavioral health challenges that were not effectively handled or addressed by management staff or by the employer as a whole.  Not because no one cared, but because people were woefully unprepared, untrained, and uneducated on best practices.

For years I expressed my concerns regarding behavioral health in the workplace and for years I was either ignored or not taken seriously.  In 2018, I finally found myself in a position where my voice had at least a minimal opportunity to be heard by leadership and for the next few years I pushed for change.

While the majority of my proposals were not considered (including the most important one), some of the smaller efforts were approved and we were at least able to bring some degree of educational opportunities about behavioral health to our employees.  One of these included a partnership with the a local university’s psychology department.

Leadership’s unwillingness to take my concerns regarding behavioral health in the workplace seriously and their lack of earnest desire to consider my other proposals for positive change, eventually added to the list of reasons I resigned. This mindset of not settling for a workplace that doesn’t take mental health seriously is something that I am not alone in. These past few years have shown that employees are fed up with employers who don’t care about their mental health and don’t provide them with the time, resources, and support needed to fend off burnout and other common workplace mental health issues.

Typically the barrier preventing positive change in the workplace for behavioral health challenges is not caused by the employees, but by the employer and their leadership team, who for any number of reasons tends to avoid the topic.  This avoidance allows people to continue to suffer, generally in silence, to the point that they leave, and once word gets out that the employer is not a safe and supportive place to work, other people will not apply to their job openings.

From employees struggling with substance use disorders or mental health conditions, to supervisory and management staff being overwhelmed by employees struggling with these types of behavioral health challenges, there has been and continues to be a need for training and education, as well as policy and procedure change in the workplace.

Both private and public companies have the opportunity to make fundamental changes to how behavioral health challenges are addressed in their workplace and an opportunity to make a positive change in our society for those who struggle with these challenges and those who care for them.

I support any initiative taking steps to make these improvements and urge employers to do more for employees with substance use challenges and mental health conditions.  There are programs and initiatives already established for support in the workplace and more than likely employer’s already have employees qualified and willing to lead any such initiative if they’d just be given the chance to make a positive change through education, training, policy and procedure transformation!

Now is always the time to advocate for mental health changes in the workplace, not just for those currently employed but also for those who may be prospective employment candidates. There are public and private organizations offering programs to support mental health in the workplace, and also state and federal grants, tax credits, tax deductions, and other financial incentives for businesses that employ candidates with mental health conditions, mental disabilities, or who are in recovery from substance use disorders.

Here are some general recommended best practices for organizations and management staff to get started on supporting mental health in the workplace:

  • Implement health and safety policies and practices
  • Learn to recognize signs of distress
  • Educate on topics such as substance use and mental health conditions
  • Share information and resources for self-care and symptom management
  • Involve team members in practices that support a healthy work-life balance
  • Provide access to career development opportunities
  • Recognize and reward the contributions of employees

You can learn more about what types of actions that can be taken or what types of policies that can be implemented in the workplace to support behavioral health by checking out my previous article U.S. Behavioral Health and the Workplace.

You will also find research and data supporting the need for these types of changes via the following private and public organizations:

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, please access my immediate assistance resource page.  A comprehensive listing of online and phone resources and services is also available.

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