How to Raise Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace: Why is it Important?

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‘Tis the season to celebrate! The holiday season is a time of celebration and joy, but it can also be a tough time for your team. 

Whether it’s work, family matters, or mental illness, it’s important to notice if your team members are struggling during the holiday season and provide the support they need during difficult times. 

The holidays can be difficult for those who have lost a loved one, suffer from seasonal depression, have stressful end-of-the-year deadlines, and more. As a leader in the workplace, take the necessary initiative to raise mental health awareness and empower your team to support one another.

Here are reasons why raising awareness for mental health can benefit your team and business as a whole and ways you can help your team during the holiday season and year-round.

What is mental illness, and how can you identify it in yourself and others?

Before you can support your team by raising mental health awareness, it’s important to know what it is.

Mental illness is a broad term that refers to physical and emotional health involving shifts in mood, behavior, and thinking. There are many different types of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

According to a study by the CDC, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults reported a mental illness in 2016. 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress such as tension headaches, loss of appetite, and anxiety.

So, how can you know if someone around you is struggling with mental health? 

One of the biggest indicators that someone might be struggling with mental health is if there is a drastic shift in their behavior.

For example, suppose one of your team members is usually very on top of her work. She is cheerful and makes a point to connect with her team every morning. Recently, she has been missing deadlines, is snippy with her team, has had emotional outbursts, and does not connect with others in the office.

These are behavioral signs that something is going on in that team member’s life. These could be signs of mental illness, or they could be indicators that your team member is going through a difficult time regarding friends or family.

Some other signs and symptoms of mental health problems include:

  • Drastic shift in sleep patterns (too much or not enough)
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Irritability 
  • Difficulty concentrating 

It’s important to be familiar with these symptoms to identify them in others and yourself.

How can mental illness affect the workplace?

The workplace is no exception to mental illness. 

When a team member is experiencing mental illness, it bleeds into every aspect of their lives. It isn’t something that they can just leave at home. It comes to work with them.

If someone is experiencing mental health problems, it can:

  • Decrease productivity 
  • Lower morale
  • Cause lack of communication with coworkers
  • Cause social isolation
  • Cause irritability with coworkers
  • Affect physical activities 

Not only is that person suffering but so is your business and your team. That’s why it’s so important to be able to identify if someone around you is suffering from mental illness. 

According to a recent study, 45% of adults in the United States who suffer from mental illness do not seek professional help.

There are five main reasons that people do not seek professional guidance:

  1. Denial
  2. Don’t know what kind of help to seek
  3. Lack of trust in mental health treatment
  4. Fear of people finding out
  5. Not financially feasible

How Can You Help?

You can support those who are suffering from mental illness, your business, and the rest of your team when you decide to support your team members by promoting mental health.

As a leader in your company, you can’t force anyone to get help if they don’t want it, but you can transform your work culture to promote mental health and self-care.

Educate yourself and others.

One of the best ways you transform your company culture is by educating yourself and your team. There is sometimes fear or judgment associated with mental health, but this often stems from ignorance.

Many people view mental illness as one thing when in reality it is a broad term that encompasses many illnesses with different severities that call for a variety of treatments. 

Ask a mental health professional to speak to your team about mental health one day. The more you talk about mental illness, the more you can normalize it and encourage those who need help to get help. Even if your team is not struggling with mental illness, they will know how to support those who are.

Learn how to support those who are suffering from mental illness.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), there are three action steps you can take.

The first step is to notice if something is wrong. 

As a leader at your company, you may not know all the behavioral patterns of your team and be able to notice if there is something to be concerned about. 

That’s why it’s so important to empower your team to notice if something is wrong and to take action. If these behavioral changes occur over a span of one to two weeks, then someone should take action.

The next step is to talk to the person you are concerned about.

Pull your co-worker aside and ask if everything is okay. Make sure to do this in a private place where that person feels comfortable. Voicing concern reinforces a supportive work culture. 

When you speak to this person be sure to provide specific examples that have made you concerned over the past few weeks. However, be sure to not pass judgment. Simply remind that person that you are there to talk if they need it.

The final step is to act.

If that person decides that they need to seek help, be that person who will walk alongside them as they search for care. Ask how you can help that person connect with a mental health professional. 

If your company has systems or programs in place for mental health, that could be your first resource!

Be kind, compassionate, and understanding.

The more you educate you and your team on the importance of mental health, the more you can understand it.

Remember to be kind, compassionate, and understanding. Living with a mental illness is difficult and having a strong support group, especially at work, will make all the difference. 

Some companies offer mental health days to their employees. While this may not be a viable option for you and your company, it is something to consider.

By offering mental health days, you are communicating to your team that they are more than just a worker in the office. You actually care about their well-being.

How CCA Can Help

Support your team through all seasons of life by promoting mental health in the workplace.

When you take the time to educate yourself and your employees on the importance of mental health,  you will transform your company culture.

At Corporate Chaplains of America, we work with businesses nationwide to provide teams in the workplace with the support they need to get through life’s ups and downs.

At CCA, our team is dedicated to you and your team. 

Your chaplain is a trusted confidant that your team can go to, whether your company is in person, is remote, distributed or any combination that makes your team unique. Our chaplains are available 24/7 for you and your team..
Contact Corporate Chaplains of America today to learn how to support your team as you seek to grow a thriving, healthy work culture for your team.

Is your company culture holding your business back?

Download our informational PDF guide “The Company Culture Advantage” to find out how your team’s culture could benefit from a dedicated Corporate Chaplain.