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decreased mind function

By Corinna Cornejo

Leaving mental health conditions untreated is costly—both in terms of dollars and lives. U.S. businesses lose billions of dollars in lost earnings each year due to untreated mental health conditions. With one in five Americans living with a mental health condition, this problem is more common than most people realize.

Effective treatments are available for mental health concerns, and 75% of people with common mental health conditions reported that treatment reduced their symptoms.

Yet 80% of workers agree that stigma is a major barrier to getting mental health treatment. These workers fear that being open about having a mental health condition could compromise their reputation, relationships, and opportunities at work. They also fear becoming a target of bullying, rejection, or discrimination.

Mental health conditions should be approached in the same manner as a physical illness or disability. Having a mental health condition is not a personal failing or caused by being lazy or irresponsible. It is something that requires professional care. Yet, fear keeps many people from seeking the help and treatment they need for their mental health concerns.

Addressing these fears is everyone’s responsibility. All of us can play a role in creating a company culture that is caring and engaged around mental health by breaking down the stigma and supporting better mental health for everyone.

Here is what a supportive company culture looks like:

Respectful policies and practices

Workplace policies that acknowledge the importance of mental health and encourage treatment, when needed, are the cornerstone for building a supportive company culture.

  • Handle mental health issues in the same manner as physical health issues. Both may require treatment and accommodations. Neither is a personal failing or the person’s fault.
  • Acknowledge that people with serious mental health conditions are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and may need reasonable accommodation. Train your managers to understand this and manage workers within these parameters.
  • Encourage everyone in the company to use respectful language and discourage language that is stigmatizing or discriminatory. There’s no room in a supportive company culture for name calling or bullying.
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Bottom line, these policies and procedures are aimed at encouraging respect, civility, empathy, and a general culture of well-being for everyone.

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Assistance programs

To be effective, assistance programs in the supportive company go beyond simply offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Assistance includes helping the person get the care they need, successfully return to work, integrate with their group, and manage work tasks.

Flexible work practices and options are helpful for getting people back to work and supporting their ongoing work performance. These can include flexible work hours and having the option to work from home.

Increased awareness

Much of the stigma surrounding mental health comes from fear and misunderstanding. By raising awareness, you can help people to understand the truth and reality of living with a mental health condition. Chances are your workers already know someone who is living with a mental health condition. They need to understand that it’s a condition that can be treated and they should not be afraid of or disgusted by the person affected.

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