For nearly 70 years, Mental Health America has observed the month of May as Mental Health Awareness Month . The American organization promotes mental health awareness in the workplace and community through toolkits, workplace screenings and other engaging activities. Through the first week of October, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also observes Mental Health Awareness Week by promoting public education campaigns throughout the United States (and similar campaigns are also observed in Canada).
Mental health matters more than ever. Participation levels in awareness campaigns is proving that mental health is increasingly considered just as important as physical health, however, there is still a significant stigma attached to mental illness, an umbrella under which numerous conditions are covered. Only 25% of those who suffer from mental illness feel supported through their illness. This is significant, especially when you consider the fact that depression is the leading cause of disability in the workplace.
- Worldwide, an estimated 322 million people live with depression, 40 million of those are Americans;
- In North America, one in five people will suffer from a condition related to mental illness in their lifetime (stress, depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, or other related medical condition);
- Nearly 60% of those in need do not receive appropriate treatment;
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimate depression as the reason for 200 million + lost workdays annually in the United States, at a lost productivity cost of $44 billion;
- Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teenagers in North America, hence why workplace programs need to extend to family members as well.
What you as an Employer can do to Help
With these growing numbers of concern, it is more important than ever before to integrate mental health focused programs into your company’s Wellness Program. Benefit News estimates that only 1.8% of employees with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) utilize the resources available to them. Many employees fear repercussions from their employers, should they become aware that they suffer from mental illness. It should be the responsibility of the employer to ensure all employees are aware of the tools at hand and to encourage an open, holistic and direct approach to the promotion of positive mental health in the workplace.
Let’s Talk: In 2010, Bell Canada started a public awareness campaign inspired by the statistics on mental illness and built a ground-breaking awareness program, rooted in the importance of conversation. Not only has this campaign raised millions of dollars towards mental health initiatives but it has opened up a dialogue about mental health that has never been seen before.
Open up the pathways of communication in your workplace towards acceptance of mental illness. Conduct a wellness benefits audit and convey all available EAP tools and programs to your employees, and remember to include the availability of programs to their family members as well; host “Lunch and Learn” speaker events with a private Q&A session afterwards to provide maximum discretion and comfort to your employees; include mental health tips and toolkits in your corporate newsletters and make mental health a cornerstone of your Workplace Wellness Program.
According to a survey from Workplace Options, 42% of employers still do not offer any mental health focused programs for their employees and while 47% do offer programs, the remaining 11% have no idea what their employer offers. Often, benefit program details are hidden in the fine print. Remove barriers to your program by hiring or internally appointing a workplace ambassador for your wellness program, get management involved in promotion and participation, including hosting communication workshops and mentoring their direct reports, and ensure the program as a whole is widely recognized and understood throughout your company. A supportive environment is key to overall workplace wellness.
You can find more tips on how to create a successful Corporate Wellness Program here on our Blog.
What you can do to Help Yourself
Studies have shown that while talking about mental health can help decrease the public stigma, journaling on your own can be just as powerful. Journaling can help you to compartmentalize what is causing your depression, anxiety or other blocks to your optimum mental health. By getting your private thoughts out of your head and onto paper, and furthermore if you review them afterwards, whether alone, with a family member or doctor, you are opening up your own channels of communication and arming yourself with the best tools to manage your own mind. Many people find it empowering to be able to manage their own mental well-being, provided you find it makes a positive difference in the way you feel.
Time and time again, you are told about the importance of sleep to your health, and when it comes to your mental health, sleep is paramount. A new study published in Lancet Psychiatry indicates that your daily rhythm (medically referred to as your circadian rhythm) deeply impacts your mental well-being. Getting quality sleep at night is one way in which you can control a significant aspect of your own mental health. For more tips on how to create a sleep-inducing nighttime routine and get a good night’s sleep, read our previous blog post: Start Getting Better Sleep Tonight.
While mental illness is increasingly recognized as a legitimate disease among society, we still have a way to go before it is on par with physical ailments such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. Mental disorders often occur in partnership with physical health issues and when the mental illness is left untreated, the physical health issues often become worse. By encouraging engagement in mental health awareness, we are supporting ourselves and others through empowering communication and opening up pathways to address mental health matters in impactful ways.