Mental health is a tough topic when it comes to the workplace. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), over 43 million adult Americans (about 18% of the total population) suffer from mental health disorders each year. Even though it is extremely common, the stigma associated with mental illness is strong, especially when it comes to employment.
Examples of mental health struggles include, but are not limited to, social phobia, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and depression. Left untreated, these illnesses can cause serious problems in the personal and professional life of an individual. Unfortunately, asking for mental health help or support can come across as weakness for many, which leaves those suffering afraid to seek the assistance they need. And if the workplace environment of those who struggle isn’t one that supports mental health, it can be an incredibly difficult, isolated struggle. As you are conducting a job search or are considering a job change, it’s important to look into mental health policies before you commit.
For example, the ability to take time off, get appropriate health care, and achieve a good work-life balance, are key to promoting mental health. With a great mental health policy in place, the overall work environment of a company will drastically improve and produce happier, healthier, and more productive employees. That is the type of company you want to call home!
This great blog article from the Department of Labor narrates what it’s like to go through mental health issues in the workplace and what is needed to truly promote mental health:
- Employment itself - giving individuals a chance despite known difficulties
- The same flexibility to recover from mental health issues as physical health issues
- Regularly promote mental health support and resources made available to employees
A recent, exciting mental health success story comes from Olark, a web development company. An employee sent a company wide email stating that she needed some time off to care for her mental health. The CEO responded with a ‘thank you’ for being a great example of promoting mental health to the company. What a great workplace environment that must be, where leadership cares for each individual who works there!
If you don’t suffer from a mental illness, chances are you know someone who does, and they may (or will) sit in the cubical, lab, or office next to you. Look for jobs at companies that make this a priority in the workplace culture. If mental health support is a top priority for you, ask questions during your offer negotiation about mental health policies and resources available to employees.
You can also be encouraging, understanding, and flexible when you notice someone dealing with mental health issues. You can make a difference in your workplace by making mental health important for your team and setting an example to dissolve the stigma.