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  • Writer's pictureKhandker Ahamed



The workplace is the most important environment to discuss mental health and illness, yet it is the last place we expect to hear about it.

Mental health disorders are among the most frequent health concerns in the United States. Nearly 1 in 5 US adults aged 18 or older reported a mental illness in 2016. (CDC) In addition, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Not only does it affect the individual negatively, but it also has a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity. Clearly this issue is grand, yet it does not have the spotlight it deserves in the American workplace. It could be due to taboo, it could be due to priorities. Regardless, it’s time we start the discussion.

When thinking about the changes that need to happen to make mental health a more acceptable topic at work, we should consider the high-level changes that need to happen in company policies to make our workplaces more accepting.

It’s essential for employers to invest in employees’ mental health and build an open culture. By addressing mental health issues in the workplace and investing in mental health care and programs, employers can increase productivity and employee retention.

Here are some reasons why investing in mental health treatment and discussion will benefit not only the employees but the workplace as well.

Great Company Culture: Valuable and talented employees want to work for a company where it’s okay to talk about your mental health. Creating a culture where mental health is accepted and openly talked about will attract more talented candidates and help retain the employees.

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness: Imaging an employee going through a mental health issue, however when they go to work, no one talks about mental illness. When people want to view their mental health issues in a positive way, they need encouragement and acceptance in all parts of their life.

Less Stress and More Benefits: By creating an environment where people can openly discuss their mental health issues and treatment, we can reduce their stress. It will make employees more productive, confident, and happier.

Here are some ways companies can create more mental health inclusive culture:

Developing a Mental Health Employee Resource Group (ERG): Employee Resource Groups is one of the best ways to engage employees. It’s a way employers can engage and create a sense of community for its employees. Having a mental health ERG can help companies develop an open culture where it’s okay to talk about mental health. Accenture and a growing number of companies have created mental health employee resource groups as a bottom-up approach to mental health support at work.

Executives Talking About Mental Health: When the leadership talks about mental health it encourages everyone else in the company to talk about mental health as well. That’s why it’s really important for the leadership to take a stand on this topic and encourage their employees to join the conversation. Jennifer Bruno, Vice President of Global Health Services at Johnson & Johnson believes that “We need to take care of our mental health with the same attention we take care of our physical health,”

Creating a culture of acceptance and openness: The goal is to make employers feel included and help people see mental illness as “a normal human condition.” Creating a culture where everyone feels a part of the community. To deal with employees’ stress, Google created the Blue Dot program. Through the program, Googlers can undergo training to become a peer supporter and claim a blue dot on their name badge.

Employers have the opportunity to change this stigma around mental health at the workplace. I know many organizations that are taking the right steps to build awareness around mental health. It’s time for building a workplace culture where having a mental health issue is not a bad thing and talking about it is okay.

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