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March 25, 2024 | Blog | Uncategorized

Addressing the Mental Health Epidemic in the Workplace

By Zach Schmit, PN1-NC, NASM-CPT

A lady giving presentation in a meeting

Envision being plagued by a job-induced mental health issue, such as anxiety, to the extent that you find yourself compelled to reveal your struggles to your supervisor. Their initial reaction dismissively states, “This mental health topic doesn’t sit well with me.”

Naturally, as the individual in question, you’d much prefer to discuss anything else other than your incessant worries, sleepless nights, and pervasive sense of dread.

In such a scenario, the outright dismissal of the concept of mental wellness in the workplace, not to mention the bold act of initiating such a discussion, highlights a growing concern among many Americans. Many still find themselves in work environments where there seems to be a glaring deficit of support or even basic comprehension regarding mental health issues.

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, companies that offered enhanced therapy options, mindfulness initiatives, and the widely acclaimed “mental health days” — which allowed employees to take time off no questions asked — could proudly claim they were attentive to their employees’ mental well-being. 

However, findings from recent studies, including one featured in the Harvard Business Review, indicate that these measures fall short of addressing the deeper mental health issues employees feel compelled to conceal.

Your Employees Expectations Of Your Role With Mental Health In The Workplace Are Rising 

A pivotal report by Mind Share Partners, a leading national nonprofit committed to transforming workplace mental health culture, revealed critical insights. Their Mental Health at Work Report released in October drew from surveys conducted among 1,500 full-time workers across the U.S. in 2019, 2021, and 2023, focusing on their mental health experiences, stigma, and workplace dynamics.

An essential takeaway from this research is the changing landscape of employee expectations following the pandemic. It’s not just the demand for remote work options but a broader anticipation that employers will take steps to make the workplace not only more accommodating but fundamentally healthier.

The decline in personal mental health ratings from 2019 to 2023 is telling. Initially, 78% of workers rated their mental well-being between 7 and 10 (on a scale where 10 is the highest). By 2023, this figure had plummeted to 61%, with employment-related stress emerging as a predominant concern over financial, familial, or societal stressors.

A noteworthy aspect of the report is its reference to the World Health Organization’s definition of “burnout.” This term, often misunderstood as something that can be resolved simply by taking a break or quitting a job, is actually rooted in chronic workplace stress. 

According to the WHO, burnout stems from factors like unmanageable workloads, a perceived lack of autonomy, inadequate recognition for efforts, a non-supportive work environment, perceived unfairness, and a disconnect between one’s values and the job’s requirements.

Failing To Train Managers Can Make A Bad Situation Worse 

Addressing what constitutes an “unfair” workplace might well be the domain of labor unions. However, fostering a sense of empowerment among employees to mitigate stress is within the reach of virtually any organization. This effort is complicated, though, by the persistent stigma attached to mental health issues.

Clichéd managerial responses such as, “You need to play hurt,” or “You knew this job would be demanding,” place the onus of coping on the employee. It perpetuates the notion that endurance is synonymous with success.

The stigma becomes even more pronounced when an employee discloses a mental health condition such as depression, often leading to misconceptions of weakness or inadequacy. Then any performance issue can be tied directly back to the employee sharing their vulnerabilities. 

Contrast this with the empathetic response typically elicited by the disclosure of a physical illness like cancer. The disparity in reactions underscores a pervasive stigma and a lack of understanding surrounding mental health disorders.

Covenant Workplace Solutions offers guidance that prepares individuals for a range of possible reactions, which unfortunately may include misunderstanding, disapproval, or outright rejection. Yet, initiating such dialogues is crucial for advancing workplace mental health awareness and support.

Covenant’s Commitment Towards a Healthier Work Culture

Covenant Workplace Solutions recognizes the critical importance of mental health in the workplace and is committed to creating an environment where employees feel supported in addressing and managing their mental health concerns. By acknowledging the complex nature of mental health issues and the varied responses they may evoke, we strive to foster a culture of understanding, support, and empowerment.

Our approach goes beyond the traditional offerings of therapy benefits and mental health days to address the root causes of workplace stress and burnout. We understand that a genuinely healthy work environment requires a comprehensive strategy that includes fostering open communication, providing adequate support systems, and promoting work-life balance.

By actively working to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health issues, Covenant Workplace Solutions aims to ensure that all employees feel valued and supported. We believe that by addressing mental health proactively and compassionately, we can create a more inclusive, productive, and resilient workplace for everyone.

You have enough on your plate already as an owner or HR professional. When you partner with Covenant Workplace Solutions we help you raise the bar on your EAP, not simply check the box. As this article has shown, your employees expectations have risen when it come to mental health, and we can help. Let’s start that discussion today!