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Mental Health in the Workplace – How You Can Help

Did you know that one in five Americans experience mental health issues? It’s more than likely that you or some of your colleagues are among the 20% of the population dealing with depression, anxiety, mood disorders or other mental health issues.

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, this is a good time to think about your office and how it can be supportive of people affected by mental illness. As a coworker or supervisor, you’re not responsible for a colleague’s diagnosis or treatment, but you can do a few simple things to show you care and assist them in getting the help they need.

Conduct a Mental Health Screening

A company-sponsored mental health screening has a couple of clear benefits. First of all, it encourages those who may need care to seek help earlier rather than later. Mental illness is like any other physical ailment in that early detection and treatment can lead to a better outcome for the affected individual. Secondly, by publicly addressing the issue of mental health, your company can help dissolve some of the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues, which may encourage employees who once felt ashamed or embarrassed to feel more comfortable accessing resources.

The organization Screening for Mental Health offers customized, online platforms for workplace screening. Alternatively, you can direct colleagues to HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org where they can complete an anonymous self-assessment.

Make Resources Available and Visible

There are dozens of mental health-focused websites and helplines, and many company-sponsored insurance plans include extensive mental health benefits. But, it’s probably safe to assume that not everyone in your office knows about all of the resources that are available to them.

If possible, make sure that mental health benefits are highlighted in the employee handbook and during open enrollment. Also, check out Right Direction, an educational initiative from the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health and Employers Health Coalition, Inc. They publish a library of workplace posters, cards and handouts that include useful information and resources.

Encourage and Practice Self-Care

Self-care includes all the things we do to support our own physical, emotional and mental health. Mediation, a run in the park, playing an instrument, chatting with friends—these are all good examples of self-care. If you’re a manager, you can help your staff make time for self-care by encouraging a healthy work/life balance and being flexible with scheduling and requests for time off.  Not in charge? Lead by example and make time for a quiet lunch hour, a late afternoon sunshine break, or a spontaneous day off.

Start a Meditation or Yoga Group

The mental health benefits of yoga and meditation are huge, and it’s now easier than ever to practice anytime and anywhere. While you can certainly hire an instructor for in-person sessions, you can also use sites like YogaGlo for on-demand, guided yoga and meditation classes ranging from 5 to 90 minutes in length. All you need is an empty conference room and an internet connection.

No matter what you choose to do at the office for Mental Health Awareness Month, you’ll be helping to bring attention to an issue that is often ignored or kept quiet. By encouraging an open conversation in the workplace, you’ll be demonstrating support and compassion for the millions of people affected by mental illness.

Which of these ideas for Mental Health Awareness Month are you most likely to implement at work?

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