May Is Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month. Did you know that 1 in 5 people has a mental illness? And it’s estimated that 43.4 million adults are affected by mental illness. Most people know someone or of someone who is mentally ill. However, mental health issues often tend to be overlooked or ignored in the workplace.

Mental illness in the workplace can be costly in loss of productivity, absenteeism, working while sick, turnover, and on and on. Healthcare costs could soar as depression ranks first as the most costly health condition for organizations. Also, mental illness issues could turn violent.

So how do we as leaders deal with and accommodate mental illness in the workplace, especially when most conditions are undiagnosed?  In fact, according to the Journal of Clinical psychiatry, it is estimated that 85% of employees’ mental illnesses go undiagnosed or untreated. Also, Employees may be fearful of telling managers about their issues so they may hide it. They probably hide it because it’s still taboo in society.

Therefore, to help you deal with mental health issues in the workplace, below are 7 tips:

  1. Consider providing a wellness program and wellness opportunities to employees. The cost of the program could well pay for itself in a more healthy workforce. You might think, it’s too expensive, however, according to a study by Truven Health Analytics, Johnson and Johnson added an employee wellness program and for every $1 they spent, it saved $1.88 to $4 on health care costs.
  2. Consider allowing flexible scheduling. Most employees love having a flexible schedule and/or working from home. Flexible scheduling could promote work life balance and could reduce stress. In some instances, I have recommended that clients use flexible scheduling as an incentive. For example: If attendance is maintained at a certain level, the employee could work 10 hour days and have a day off during the week; or another example, the employee could work from home one day a week if they meet or exceed sales goals, etc.
  3. Through Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, you could sign up for free weekly newsletters and share the free newsletters with staff for mental health and workplace engagement.
  4. When speaking with employees, it can be crucial to use the correct wording. For example, instead of saying, “how is your health”, (which can also cause legal issues), try asking, “how can we help you do your job”.
  5. Encourage employees to talk about stress, workload, family commitments, and other issues. Partner with and consult with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  6. Invest in mental health benefits.
  7. Remember to make accommodations as required by law. Unless it creates an undue hardship, the ADA requires most employers to offer accommodations to an employee with a mental illness. But also note, employers may be allowed to discipline and even terminate an employee with a mental illness, without considering an accommodation, for misconduct or if the employee presents a threat.

The key is respect and making sure you are open to discussions about mental health issues.

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