According to The Guardian, there are 1 in 5 adults who have a mental illness. That translates to over 40 million Americans. Most of those 40 million people go to work every day. They have mouths to feed at home and bills to pay. Not to mention, doctors’ office bills and prescriptions for their mental illness. Mental health and the workplace can be a toxic mix.
Everybody faces the daily grind whether or not you have a mental illness. You may have your brother’s wedding to help cater; carpool responsibilities at the elementary school; mountains of laundry to wash; braces for Susie; and a driver’s permit for Steven.
The place where you work is a jungle. It is imperative the working force who are mentally ill get the health services they need. From medications, to doctor check-ups to therapy sessions, all are important in order for the mentally ill to get out of bed, shower, put clothes on and drive to work.
According to The Guardian, out of the adults with a mental illness, 56 percent did not receive help in 2017. Just imagine if your brain did not work properly. For you to be able to function; take care of those who are under your charge; maintain a roof over your family’s heads; keep the electricity on; and purchase clothes and shoes for soccer, you will need all the help you can get.
The mental illness requires certain parameters in their personal life as well as their work life. Getting the medical help is key. But what if your poorly working brain does not get the medications it needs? Nor therapy? Your medical situation will put you more at a disadvantage for everything you do.
The reality of mental health and the workplace
Depression and anxiety are the top two mental illnesses which rank the highest in number of people who have these disorders. Globally, Fortune discovered and reported, there are more than 300 million people with depression and 260 million with anxiety disorders.
So many people have these disorders. Many are working at least part-time jobs. They do not have the money or insurance to buy their medicines, see a psychiatrist or have a therapy session.
As an employee, someone who is depressed (medicated or not) might come in late because they lacked the motivation to get out of bed and shower. Someone who is depressed or anxious could get overwhelmed with the work they are doing and just stop and stare at the computer monitor. An employee who has social anxiety, may not mix and mingle with other co-workers or answer their phone. Or they could have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and may be unable to complete their work and turn it in due to the fact they are anxious about possible mistakes.
The World Health Organization produced a study which has discovered the global economy loses $1 trillion in lost productivity each year. I can definitely see the numbers adding up to a rather large amount. Speaking from experience, it is difficult to maintain a high productivity rate.
When I worked at a desk job, there were numerous times that I was not as productive as I could have been, due to all of the layers of complicated symptoms of my bipolar. I took off work, took longer lunches, put off certain jobs, stared at my computer monitor.
On the other side, I would also experience mania. When that would occur, I had so much energy that I was nearly exploding. I was like five people in one. I tackled tasks and got them done superfast. I was high as a kite. But the mood that comes after mania is depression.
“When employees are at their best, both physically and mentally, they are happier and more productive,” explains Alex Goldberg, founder and CEO of Provata Health. As seen by Inc., lost productivity and absenteeism is a direct relation to mental health.
Steps to a mentally healthy workplace
Encourage a work/life balance
Be sure to decrease the importance of overtime. This way when it is time to go home, it is time to go home and start your other life. Employees need time to recharge their batteries for the next work day. If they are working overtime every week, productivity will go down.
Educate, educate, educate about mental health
Education through training helps to reduce stigma in the workplace. Talk to your employees who have mental illnesses. They may be willing to do a presentation for the office. If they are too shy, ask them questions to find out more about what it is like to have a mental illness.
Train managers to know what to look for in the mentally unhealthy
Managers are the one management employee who spend a lot of time with their employee. This relationship encourages an evaluation by the manager to see if the mental health is in proper order.
Wellness is a top priority
Encourage employees to get out of the building and take walks outside. Drink plenty of water. Offer to pay a portion of their gym memberships.
Get behind employees who get help
Support your employees who get help for their mental illness. Whether it is medication, a check-up with a psychiatrist or a therapy session, let them know you support their efforts to maintain stability in their mental illness.
Employers’ first steps to build up mental health and the workplace
As an employer, your first step should be to engage and encourage the people on your staff who have a mental disorder. Let them know you support them. Your next step will be determined by the success of your first step. Keep a finger on the pulse of the staff. They will guide you.