While employers have long focused on the physical health of their employees, over the last decade we’ve seen a growing emphasis on mental health.
The World Health Organization defines positive mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to her or his community. Employees with good mental health will perform better in their work.”
As employers have realized the impact that mental health can play on the overall health and productivity of their workforce, they are increasingly implementing programs and offering resources. Unfortunately, there is often a barrier that prevents employees from seeking a diagnosis and needed care: stigma.
So, what can be done to reduce the stigma of mental health in the workplace?
Employers can start by educating employees that mental health disorders are a disease and begin a dialogue within the workplace. Educating employees will help them be more supportive of colleagues and these conversations may also help them recognize their own issues. For example, if they generally feel lousy and want to sleep all the time, they may be suffering from depression. And once recognized and diagnosed, there are simple steps such as diet and exercise that may make a huge difference in their overall health and well-being.
Change the conversation
If we want people to feel comfortable to seek out help, we must change the way we communicate about mental health. In the same way that the “R” word has evolved to be hurtful and offensive, it’s not a bad idea to think about other words we might want to avoid (such as “crazy” or “insane”) so as to be more sensitive to those who suffer from mental health issues.
Create a culture of well-being
Research shows that the environments in which we live and work have an impact on our health and well-being. By focusing on prevention, we can reduce the onset and severity of disease while having a positive impact on the health and productivity of our employees and their families.
At Vitality, we’re doing our part with initiatives such as HealthyMind™ to help companies support their people to build healthy life skills like resiliency and mindfulness to help them to better adapt and perform at home and work. Just like our physical health, we must exercise healthy habits for good mental health.
By talking about and treating mental health as an extension of overall health, we create the opportunity for people to recognize and speak up about the issues that matter in their lives and for others to offer support before it is apparent or even needed.