WE TURN

Life Sci Turns 5

THIS YEAR 

BLOG

Mental health in the workplace

We’ve all been there – bad days, bad weeks, bad years. Juggling your work life with your personal life can be extremely difficult and finding a job that genuinely cares for your mental health is of the utmost importance. Mental health is something that we all struggle with – especially since the pandemic began two years ago.

I’ve had jobs that only cared about results and would rather see us work through a tornado from a hotspot than give us the day off to worry about our own safety and health. Don’t get me wrong, results are important. But health should ALWAYS come first.

Let’s look at some stats. 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious in 20161. According to Mental Health America, over 40 million American adults experience a mental health condition each year. That’s 1 in 5 of the total adult population and almost 20% of the workforce in the US4.

Poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employees when it comes to job performance and productivity, engagement with work, communication with coworkers, and physical capability/daily functioning2.

Mental health is the most important aspect (in my opinion) when it comes to a job – especially during these trying times, as depression and suicide rates have risen. I’m proud to be a part of a company that respects, understands, and supports their employees’ health. I couldn’t be more thankful for the love that is given to each and every team member here. I can actually have a life outside of work – who knew?

The promotion of health in the workplace is necessary. Putting those promotional words into action is even more necessary. The workplace is an optimal setting to create a culture of health for many reasons: communication structures are in place, programs and policies come from one central team, social support networks are available, and employers can reinforce healthy behaviors and use data to track progress and measure the effects2.

If there’s one tip I can give to other employers who are looking to enhance their mental health policies (essentially, be more like LifeSci), it’s this:

Create a safe environment for employees to confidently speak about their mental health and train them to understand, sympathize and offer support to their colleagues. Work-life balance is necessary, especially during these times where we’ve adapted to a “new normal.” Addressing burnout, mental illnesses, learning/eating disorders, and stress from work and life is critical.

Don’t know where to start? Ask your employees what resources you can provide to help them improve their health and well-being. Ask them if they have ideas on policies that can be implemented to help them achieve that work-life balance. ASK THEM HOW THEY’RE DOING, REALLY. Make them feel comfortable enough to share that information with you instead of asking just because you feel obligated to.

Here’s some tips for employees who are struggling with work-life balance and don’t know how to communicate it to their employers:

There’s no harm in asking for help. There’s also no pressure to disclose your life story. If your mental health is affecting your ability to complete work, your communication with coworkers, your ability to focus throughout the day – a conversation with your boss could be necessary. Start the conversation and let them know how you’re feeling. Give them some ideas on how they can help you.

If you want to start a larger conversation, look into resources and send a note to the HR department, the CEO, the management team, etc. Let them know how implementing mental health policies could benefit you and your colleagues. Always remember: mental health matters.

In a case study by the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, a company named Lakeside Industries created a project called the “Workplace Mental Health and Wellness Initiative” where they aimed to tackle stigmas and make it safe to talk about mental health. The initial goal of this project was to reduce stigma related to mental health and see if it was possible to combine psychological safety with a caring safety culture3.

Other goals included seeing if employees would engage when given the opportunity to talk about mental health and making the initiative self-sustaining by getting everyone comfortable sharing resources and discussing mental health. As a result of the company’s efforts, they saw greater acceptance of mental health and suicide prevention, as well as employees being more willing to share their experiences3.

By ensuring employees know how and where to get help when needed, Lakeside has consistently seen an increase in employees volunteering in community mental health events, sharing their lived experiences, serving as resources, and testifying or sending letters of support for suicide prevention legislation3.

No matter who you are or what stage of life you’re in, we’ve all felt stress and struggled with our mental health. We all have a story. Understanding this is key to empathizing and creating a space for positive mental health results. Truly listen to your colleagues & employees, don’t try to “fix” anyone, and start normalizing mental health discussions. Upgrade the conversation and environment so that every employee can thrive and feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.

If you are struggling or in a state of crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24 hours a day/7 days a week at 800-273-8255.

#MentalHealthMatters

Editor’s notes:

This blog post was inspired by Lori Angilletta & Ericah Whitmill. Everyone needs a Lori or an Ericah in their life. Lucky for me, I have both.

Sources:

  1. American Psychological Association. Stress in America: Coping with Change, Part 1. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 2017.
  2. “Mental Health in the Workplace.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Apr. 2019, www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/workplace-health/mental-health/index.html.
  3. Beyer, Cal. “Lakeside Industries.” Workplace Mental Health, American Psychiatric Association Foundation, workplacementalhealth.org/case-studies/lakeside-industries.
  4. “The State of Mental Health in America.” Mental Health America, www.mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america.