The economic costs of mental health challenges will be more than cancer, diabetes, and respiratory ailments put together,” says Thomas Insel, Director, National Institute of Mental Health. Why the spotlight on mental health? Because:

  • Conditions like depression, anxiety, and panic, impact our physical health, leading to cardio-vascular and musculoskeletal disorders. These further affect our mental health, triggering a cyclical process of ill health.
  • It’s a leading cause of low productivity, absenteeism, and attrition. Employees with depression report an average of 4.8 missed workdays, and 11.5 days of reduced productivity, in a quarter.

Thus, it is time for organizations to take note, and support their employees. After all, as professionals, we spend almost 90,000 hours of our lives working!

Where does one begin? Here:

  1. Understand the impact. 77% of employees across UK and USA have reported experiencing poor mental health at some point. Yet, only 33% received support. The impact of this can’t be negligible. Thus, leaders need to learn about the effects of mental health challenges on their workplace.

A good example – PPG Industries. To better assess the impact of stress and depression on their employees, they conducted a series of internal surveys. They concluded that:

  • General health, work attendance, and work performance were all affected negatively by stress and depression.
  • Mild depression is the most prevalent form, and causes maximum productivity loss.
  • Challenges with personal issues, finances, and a high stress job, are the strongest predictors of more severe depression.
  1. Break the silence. There is stigma attached to mental health conditions, because we can’t always ‘see’ it, and don’t understand it. That prevents employees from seeking help. 48% of people with mental health problems said they would not talk to their employer. How can we make it easy?

DuPont does this well through their ICU (Identify, Connect, Understand) program – an anti-stigma campaign designed to foster a workplace culture that supports emotional health. It:

  • Reminds staff that it is OK to care for one another and reach out for help.
  • Is facilitated through a five-minute video rolled out globally in seven languages. This teaches people signs of emotional/ psychological distress, and how to offer support.
  • Prompted a strong positive response from staff for awareness and support training.
  1. Promote well-being. Research has found that the way employees treat one another, and how leaders model healthy behavior like trust and good communication, go a long way in reducing distress. 

Barry-Wehmiller practices a leadership approach that enables people’s work to be in harmony with people-centric values:

  • Their approach to well-being supports balance in the key areas that contribute to a thriving life – financial, social, career/purpose, physical, and community.
  • It influences how the company reacts to downturns, working toward shared sacrifice that results in higher levels of loyalty and gratitude.

These statistics are sobering, yes. But, there is always a way to make it better, as demonstrated by the companies mentioned above. Are you ready to join that bandwagon?

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