Recognizing & Addressing Mental Health Issues
Career Start, a Staffing Agency’s advice to Corporate America
Being a staffing agency, Career Start gets to know our potential employees fairly well before we send them off to an employer. However, we don’t work side-by-side with them to know their innermost thoughts or performance habits. Mental health is a taboo subject that needs to be addressed!
Poor mental health and stress can affect an employee’s job performance, productivity and engagement. The statistics are staggering. Research shows that over 200 million workdays are lost due to mental health conditions each year, with almost 60% of employees reporting that they have never spoken to anyone at work about their mental health issues. One study recently found that only 38% of employees said leadership took proactive steps to create a healthy workplace culture, and only a mere 28% agreed that their leaders would be willing to have that difficult conversation. The same report stated that nearly one in five American workers have left a job in the past five years due to bad company culture. This has cost an estimated $223 billion for companies over the same amount of time.
Employers may want to help but aren’t sure how. First things first. Let’s take a look at how to “diagnose” an employee with possible mental health issues.
- Degradation in job performance and productivity
- Lack of engagement with one’s work
- Lessened communication with coworkers
Side-by-side team members may notice:
- Excessive worrying or fear
- Overwhelming sadness
- Confused thinking or problems concentrating
- Extreme mood changes
- Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
- Avoidance of colleagues or social engagements
- Difficulty understanding or relating to coworkers
- Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “issues”)
- Inability to carry out daily tasks or handle problems and stress
So as an employer, how can you help your employee? Here are a few suggestions.
- Educate employees about mental health issues.
- Promote awareness about the importance of mental health and stress management. Workplace health promotion programs have proven to be successful, especially when they combine mental and physical health interventions.
- Provide resources to better manage mental health problems.
- Make mental health self-assessment tools available to all employees.
- Offer free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression from a qualified mental health professional, followed by directed feedback and clinical referral when appropriate.
- Provide free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling, or self-management programs.
- Have materials available, such as brochures and videos, about the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and opportunities for treatment.
- Host seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques.
- Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members.
- Promote a stress-free workplace
- Create and maintain dedicated, quiet spaces for relaxation activities.
- Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions about issues that affect job stress.
Many companies have stepped up and invested time and money into workplace mental health screening and wellness. Here are a few specifics as to how they achieved success.
- Conducted ongoing, anonymous surveys to learn about attitudes toward managers, senior executives, and the company as a whole.
- Normalized discussion of mental health by having senior leadership share personal stories in video messages.
- Focused on six key health issues: depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and addictions as part of a mental health and wellness campaign.
- Maintained a dedicated quiet room that is not connected to a wireless internet signal, which gives employees a place to disengage and recharge.
- Combined professional and personal growth opportunities through goal-setting, one-on-one coaching, development sessions, and biannual retreats.
- Provided free wellness consultations by an onsite clinical psychologist where employees do not have to take leave to access these services.
- Held lunchtime learning sessions to reduce the stigma about mental health and the services available to employees.
- Offered quarterly guided imagery relaxation sessions to teach stress management strategies.
- Extended EAP (Employee Assistance Program) access to anyone living in an employee’s home.
Staffing agencies can only do so much. Corporate America has to step up whether it’s creating more open lines of communication or taking the steps toward talking about uncomfortable subjects. Yes, prioritizing mental health is a human issue, but employers need to realize it’s a business issue too. In helping their employees, they in turn, are helping their bottom line.
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