Every October 10th is World Mental Health Day, as designated by the World Health Organization. This year, the theme is Mental Health in the Workplace, so we thought it would be good to look at some of the ways you can highlight World Mental Health Day in your workplace – and make sure any conversations you have will lead to real, lasting change.
Look at the resources
Lots of mental health charities have resources to help you improve your workplace environment, whether you’re the CEO or an intern. The American Psychiatric Association Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health, for example, has white papers that look at all the research on the impact of employee mental health and ways you can improve your own company’s mental healthcare environment. Mental Health America also has a great list of small changes your company can introduce to help improve the work environment.
Work out a plan with company employees
Once you’ve read up on the latest research and tips, you can organize a company-wide meeting or a brainstorming session with workers across the company. You need to get a wide range of employee experiences, and then ask specific questions about what they’d like to change, what they find most stressful and how they think those changes can be implemented.
Talk about your own experiences
One of the best ways to destigmatize mental health is to talk about it. One in five adults will struggle with a diagnosable mental illness this year, so it is very likely that you or someone at your company will have a story to share. Even talking about stress or feelings of being overwhelmed, even if you don’t think those feelings ‘count’ as a struggle with mental illness, can be helpful. It can make others going through similar problems feel less alone. It can open up dialogue that means employees can find good working solutions to their problems. And it can help you feel less alone, too.
The only rule is, you should only share your story if you feel comfortable doing so. No one should feel forced to talk about something they’re not ready to talk about.
Bring in a World Mental Health Day treat to get people talking
This might feel a bit silly, given the gravity of the issue, but nothing gets people gathered round and talking like a breakroom treat. Whether it’s cake, cookies or a catered lunch, you provide the nibbles – and the World Mental Health Day-related decorations – and everyone else will start their own conversations. And sometimes, that’s the best way to make change happen.
Poor employee mental health isn’t just a personal problem for workers. It’s a problem for business, too. US companies lose $79 billion a year due to absenteeism and lower productivity caused by untreated mental health problems. Moreover, 1 million employees will skip work every day because of workplace stress. More than half of workers say stress makes them less productive – and research shows this is true.
But if you start promoting mental health at work, both on World Mental Health Day and beyond, you will soon see the difference. Productivity will improve because employees will be happier. It doesn’t get more win-win than that.