One of the biggest barriers to mental health awareness in the workplace is stigma, especially when it comes to employees who are struggling with mental health challenges like anxiety or depression. By eliminating the stigma attached to mental health, organisations can help their employees get the help they need much faster and take the necessary steps to recover.
With World Mental Health Day falling in October, it’s important to make this an opportunity to change attitudes towards mental health and support employees who are struggling with their mental health.
Employees are often afraid to reach out for help. With nearly 50% of UK employees fearing the negative impact of being open about their mental health struggles in the workplace, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to eliminate the stigma attached to mental health.
Empathy perhaps is the most important attribute that organisations need to spread among their employees if they hope to change the way employees perceive mental health. Here are some ways that managers can implement mental health awareness in the workplace by creating a more empathetic culture.
watch your language
Pay attention to the words you’re using, especially because it makes a big impact on those around you who will likely take cues about the culture surrounding mental health in the workplace. Avoid using phrases like, “That’s not normal behaviour”, “She’s acting schizo today!”, or “He’s acting OCD”.
We’ve all heard a version of these phrases and may have even said them ourselves in passing without intending to offend someone. With many employees choosing to keep their mental health struggles a secret, these phrases could potentially sound like an indictment.
Ask yourself this question. Would you be comfortable opening up about your mental health struggles to your manager if you heard someone say these phrases?
reconsider ‘sick days’
Imagine an employee who comes to you with a cancer diagnosis. If they asked you for time off to get the required treatment, would you ask them to “push through” or “learn to deal with it”?
The same empathy should be given to employees who are experiencing mental health challenges. But the truth is that many wouldn’t consider mental health challenges as real health and wellbeing issues and wouldn’t react with the same urgency or empathy.
Employers need to get more comfortable with the idea of suggesting, requesting, and approving mental health days off as part of their sick leave policies. Employers need to take a strong stance on mental health and drive the notion that it bears the same importance as any physical illness.
train employees and managers to notice and respond
Every office has an emergency medical kit in case someone needs aspirin or a bandaid. But what about a mental health first aid kit? Have you trained your employees on how to use a mental health first aid kit? Do your employees have the tools to identify the signs of someone who’s struggling with mental health challenges?
Use exercises that teach your employees how to listen, offer reassurance, and assess if someone is at risk for self-harm or suicide. Remember that these types of conversations can be emotionally charged and therefore, they shouldn’t be taken lightly. With the unexpectedness of these conversations, it’s important to offer thorough training where employees understand their options should they feel that someone is experiencing mental health challenges.
Even if an employee isn’t confident enough to strike up a conversation with someone who they think may need mental health support, it’s important that they know the proper ways to help them in case someone does confide in them.
final thoughts on mental health awareness in the workplace from Kinhub
When your employees are going through a tough time, it’s important that they have someone to turn to for help and support. Whether they’re going through a personal crisis or a work-related issue, they need to know that they have the support they need to talk about their struggles before their situation turns into something more serious.
Workplaces that have established or are on their way to establishing interventions that help improve mental wellbeing in the workplace will find that they have all the critical components of creating a culture that destigmatises mental health struggles.