How to Destigmatize Mental Illness in the Workplace

Unsurprisingly, mental health took a significant hit in 2020. There was a 93% increase in individuals seeking anxiety screens. Rates of anxiety and depression were already on the rise and the pandemic only exacerbated those trends. A whopping 40% of American adults reported struggling with mental illness according to the CDC. Treatment for depression alone costs the nation $110 billion.

One could make the argument that there is an epidemic of mental illness in the country.

In light of what could be fairly called a public health crisis, HR professionals need to be ready to identify those at risk and offer them assistance. While it might be obvious that some employees are suffering from mental illness, it’s helpful to make sure that your workplace culture is inclusive of people struggling with mental health disorders before you notice a problem.

Creating an atmosphere in which employees feel comfortable asking for help can help you ensure the safety and wellbeing of your team. Here are some steps you can take to lower the stigma associated with mental illness to help your workforce get the help they need.

Make Yourself Available
“How are you?” can be a powerful question.

Keeping in informal, regular contact with your team can help them open up. An employee might be more likely to tell you if they are struggling if you already have a personable relationship with them. Maintaining regular contact can also help you notice changes in their demeanor that can signal the onset of mental illness.

Be Inclusive Towards Those with Disabilities
Make sure that you send a loud and clear message that employees with disabilities, including those who suffer from mental illness, are still valued at work. It should go without saying that anyone suffering from a disability, be it mental or physical, deserves accommodation. While it is their right under the law, it’s possible that disabled employees do not know that they actually deserve accommodations.

Building an Inclusive Culture through Empathy
Making sure that your employees know that they can ask for reasonable accommodations will help ensure that they perform at their highest level. It can also help you retain top-tier talent.

Honesty at the Top
Leadership can help as well.

When leaders are realistic about the mental health challenges that they’ve experienced, they’re modeling the openness that their team ought to practice. This can help you work with employees to address their struggles with mental illness before they become serious. Moreover, when leaders are open about their own struggles, they send an affirmative message to mentally ill individuals that they can still succeed in spite of their health issues.

Be Aware of How Different Demographics Respond to Mental Illness
Different populations within the U.S. grapple with mental illness in different ways. For instance, members of Gen Z and Millennials are more open to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and are more open to discussing it at work. Keep in mind that members of different demographics at your workplace will respond differently to mental health challenges.

2021 Mental Health Trends Report
This might affect the way in which you approach your team. Take, for example, the story of RK Mechanical, a Denver-based construction company: after one of their employees killed himself, the HR team promoted the use of, which could appeal to their predominantly male workforce, which was disproportionately comprised of veterans, who are more likely to suffer from PTSD than the general population.

Make sure that your mental health solutions are tailored to your workforce.

There are many steps you can take to support your employees’ struggles with mental illness. Make sure that you are fostering a workplace inclusive of those with mental health disorders. Doing so can both help ensure the safety and wellbeing of your team and help you retain talent.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *