Whose responsibility is it to manage mental health in the workplace? Ultimately, it falls into the laps of Human Resource Professionals to support a positive environment that meets each individual employee’s needs. While it may seem like a complicated situation, human resources departments can and should do a few simple things to mitigate the problem.
Eliminate Stigma, Increase Awareness
It’s important to make sure the entirety of a workforce is educated on mental health and the stigma surrounding it due to misunderstandings, misrepresentation, and misinformation. According to a 2019 APA poll, about half of workers were concerned about discussing mental health at their jobs, with over one in three fearing retaliation or termination if they sought mental health care. Educating employees about the basics of mental health struggles helps create a safer environment for everyone. Almost one in five U.S. adults live with mental illness, but many go undiagnosed and untreated due to a myriad of factors. Stigma contributes to worsening symptoms, reduced likelihood of seeking treatment, and poorer recovery from mental illness, but education is one way the HR department can make a change.
While it’s recommended to keep a positive mental health conversation going in the workplace, remember that only experts can treat and diagnose mental health disorders. Human Resource Professionals can provide a variety of resources to employees. Organizations like The Mental Health Coalition and Stamp Out Stigma offer mental health resources, while nonprofits such as This is My Brave and Bring Change to Mind provide education.
When someone who faces mental health problems comes to you about their struggles, it’s important to imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes. It’s best to let the employee know that you can empathize with them and that you want to help, even if you aren’t fully aware of what they are going through. Dr. Brene Brown highlights four steps to practicing empathy that HR professionals can utilize when discussing employee mental health. Perspective taking can enlighten you on what an employee’s daily struggle with mental illness is like. Staying out of judgment will help decrease stigma around seeking help for mental illness. Discussing mental health can be daunting, so try to recognize the emotions the other person is feeling. Finally, to show the employee that you empathize with them, communicate that you understand their emotions.
HR Professionals have the ability to lend a helping hand to those in need. Our dedicated HR experts are trained to empower a workforce where employees feel safe discussing their concerns.