Sheridian J. Aiken, SPHR
Three Powerful (and Inexpensive!) Ways to Support Employees During Mental Health Awareness Month
As you may know, the month of May has been designated as a time to raise awareness and education about mental health.
According to the CDC, mental health disorders are among the highest health concerns in the United States. In a recent article, “Mental Health in the Workplace,” the CDC suggests that higher rates of mental illness, especially depression, can impact attendance, disability, and worker’s compensation, affecting both the individual and the business. We know that employees face both personal and professional circumstances that may contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression or exacerbate underlying mental illness.
So, how do we in Human Resources help our employees to navigate the many challenges to mental health? Here are three critical steps to supporting employees’ mental wellbeing:
Support good habits for all employees through education. Provide programs on exercise, nutrition, lifestyle coaching, and other healthy physical and mental habits. Your health insurance provider may offer these programs free as part of the service they provide to you.
Provide information to managers, supervisors, and employees about EAP (Employee Assistance Programs). An EAP program typically offers a limited number of short-term counseling to employees and their families and educational sessions on subjects like finances, communication, and coping with stress, death, substance abuse, and life’s problems. These benefits are usually free to the employee and family members and often coordinate with medical services if the number of counseling sessions is more than EAP can cover. If you don’t offer an EAP, consider adding this very cost-effective benefit.
Train managers and supervisors about disabilities and the accommodation process. Organizations may have a legal responsibility to accommodate mental health conditions that qualify as disabilities. Managers and supervisors should be aware that they must notify HR of requests for changes in work schedule, job duties, or other adjustments if the employee requests those changes due to a physical or mental health condition.
***One additional tip: The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides educational resources and practical suggestions to help employers and employees identify accommodations at work. Many suggested accommodations are inexpensive and easy to implement. It can be a real benefit for organizations trying to identify options for employees with disabilities!
Take advantage of the number of resources available to help you get the word out that your organization cares about its employees and their mental health!