Let’s Chat: Combating the Mental Health Stigma

Let’s Chat: Combating the Mental Health Stigma
Jillian Bateman — March 2, 2020

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nearly 1 in 5 US adults aged 18 and older reported a mental illness in 2016. With so many individuals affected by mental health issues, the preliminary causes of these symptoms may come from hidden dangers in the workplace 

In fact, this may be true for a few of your employees. And now is the time to talk.  

Some individuals that have mental health disorders also have physical health conditions, which can lead to additional health care costs. Psychological health could be costing real company dollars. 

The mental health stigma weighs heavy on job performance, engagement, and retention rates. In fact, burnout and its many consequences can be detrimental to company performance.  

There are many things in a workplace that lead to symptoms of stress, depression and other forms of mental illnesses. Plopping your employee into stressful situations by giving unclear expectations or unreasonable deadlines pile stress on employees. A hectic workplace or fieldwork leaves workers too frazzled to organize thoughts and daily operations. Anxiety can be good in some situations, but surviving in fight-or flight mode 40 hours or more a week is not.  

Company leaders need to adapt to the idea of nurturing employee well-being by removing stigmas and supporting mental health. Here are five ways you can take on a new mindset toward mental health and improve company performance: 

The CDC says 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed during work hours.


How does each employee feel their role is important to company goals and the overall big picture? Each employee is an important asset to your business if they weren’t, you wouldn’t be this far into the article. They each hold an important pillar for your company’s longevity and performance.  

A good way to alleviate stress is to set clear goals for each of your employees. Both short-term and long-term goals can help employees feel like a valuable asset to the company’s mission. Establish clear expectations for your workforce to ease the uncertainty of upcoming projects.  

Another idea is to create an open space where employees can communicate and collectively organize their thoughts. Invite employees to step away from their desk into another room filled with collaboration tools to encourage teamwork. The space can be utilized for meetings, teamwork or a place for your staff to decompress. If you allow team members to brainstorm away from their workspace, they might have a chance tbreak away from the usual hustle and bustle of the office.  


Establishing Job Security  

How much turnover do you have at your company? If positions are a revolving door another potential stressor for your teams may be job security. If your employees walk in every day in doubt of their job performance living up to company standards, stress may be a key factor in low work performance. A good way to minimize the anxieties of job loss is to put together clear weekly or biweekly sessions with each of your employees. This way, you can meet with your staff about upcoming projects, company successes and have an open floor for any concerns. When reviews come around, your employees will have a clear understanding of where they stand in the company.  

A positive way to improve your staff’s outlook to their own job security is highlighting their individual talents.  

For example, on a soccer team, each player utilizes different talents to help their team succeed. If the player isn’t aware of what those abilities or strengths are, the team will lack in those certain areas.  

As a business leader, you have many tasks to allocate to your workforce. Delegate tasks to your team that best suit each staff member’s abilities, not their job title. Allowing employees to work with their strengths will diminish any fears or uncertainty in their work.  


Work Environment  

The answer to the mental health epidemic isn’t in meditation or yoga rooms. While wellness programs do provide relief of short-term mental health related symptoms, the lasting effects of a hectic work environment stick around for the long run. Each business is different and the employees are the ones who make a business, a company.   

Employers need to shift their mindset from strict leadership to engaging, cooperative workspaces. In all reality, employees want a challenging yet unthreatening work environment. You can invite others to speak up during meetings. It’s time to step away from all the executive orders and listen to your team.  

The most important part is to let your employees know that it is okay to fail. As a leader, reward your team for taking on a new project, so when you need a new idea for the future, they aren’t afraid to think outside of the box. The creativity and problem-solving skills adapted from mistakes brings teams together and speeds up work productivity.   


Step Away from the Scene 

The CDC says 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed during work hours. A few days away can help clear the mind and help with a fresh take on things when you come back into the office.  

But when vacation is not an option, taking periodic days off may reduce the impact of daily stress. Encourage your employees to take the day off and completely turn off everything: computer, cellphone, iPad – everything. Unplug from the hustle and bustle of the office to unclutter the mind. This will not only keep your employees happy, but it will improve their productivity as well. 

The importance of including personal hours in your staff’s benefits may be a selling point in your hiring process. Personal hours are paid hours employees can take off throughout the year for anything they might need. This is different than vacation and allows your employees the flexibility to take off when necessary.  


Commit to the Wellbeing of your Staff 

The key factor in the wellness of your workforce is providing the access to healthcare and mental wellness programs. Provide information on life-coaching and self-assessment tools to make sure they can get help when they need it. As a front-runner of the organization, normalizing the discussion behind mental health will open communication, keep your staff happy and improve your company’s wellbeing. Take care of your staff and they will take care of you.  

The mental health of your workers begins with a conversationand now it’s time to chat.