May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Recent statistics show mental health problems are now more common, affecting millions. 

Having policies and practices in place to support your employees’ mental health, is more than an individual benefit. It provides a benefit to the work environment and overall productivity. Here are six ways that you can promote mental wellness in your workplace:

1. Provide mental health resources like EAPs and coaching

Employee assistance programs, or EAPs, are employee benefits programs designed to help employees resolve issues that could impact their life. The idea is to address personal issues before they interfere with work performance.  Coaching can also be provided through a third party, with one-on-one coaching, coaching groups/circles and on demand options.

2. Offer mental health training

Access to therapy and mental health services is helpful, yet employees desire to be trained on how to use these resources. Teach managers signs of depression, anxiety, and other common mental health conditions and how to intervene in an appropriate way. Having an open line of communication with their manager can reduce the stress that employees experience when they fear that other team members will “find out” their issues.

3. Train managers on what to do if they see signs of emotional distress 

Embracing how to handle mental health at work is the preferred approach.  People need to be able to bring their authentic selves to work, and they thrive when they do. In contrast, pretending to be okay makes people 32% less likely to love their jobs

Train managers to offer support to employees who may not be feeling their best. Teach them to listen without judgement and offer next steps to support them. This could include authorizing a mental health day, offering flexible work hours, extending a deadline on a project, a referral to an EAP, or starting a conversation with HR to explore options.

4. Include mental health coverage as part of the health care plan

Be sure that your health insurance coverage offers adequate support for mental health care. Consider covering both mental health-related and alternative care, such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractors. Many alternative treatments have mental health as well as physical benefits.

5. Use communication to reduce stigma

There is still a strong stigma around mental health. People with mental health problems can experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives.  This stigma and discrimination can make these problems worse and can stem from society, employers, the media, and even friends and family. You may even experience internalized stigma, where you come to believe the negative messages or stereotypes about yourself.  Be open about conversations regarding well-being and mental health. You don’t have to divulge every aspect of your personal life. Sharing a simple “I feel overwhelmed” or “I’m having a rough day” can be wonderfully affirming. Being able to be honest with your managers, colleagues, and teams boosts camaraderie, retention, and even productivity. Let them know it’s okay to have an off day.

6. Promote well-being as part of the company culture

Celebrate your team’s healthy self-care habits. Encourage walking meetings, host water challenges, and remind them of wellness or lifestyle perks included in their benefits package. Demonstrate work-life harmony and take time out for your own mental health – walk the talk. Make sure your team knows that you value their well-being as much as their productivity, and emphasize that they don’t have to sacrifice their mental health for performance.  As the saying goes you “Can’t pour from an empty cup”, so it’s important for your mental health to show up as the best version of yourself at work.

In order to thrive, we should do more than treat mental illness.  We need to get ahead of stress, anxiety and depression by emphasizing and encouraging the importance of mental fitness. Being self-aware and know how we think, behave, and feel gives us the key elements to live empowered, more fulfilling lives.

HR Elements is here to help you build a stronger organization beginning with your greatest asset, your people.

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