Why is it important to promote mental health in the workplace? 

It is commonly assumed that mental health issues arise from factors outside of work, however the stressful lifestyle involved in pursuing a career can contribute to the development and exacerbation of mental illnesses. 

Typically, an employee spends 7 to 5 days a week at work, resulting in the workplace being the most frequented location aside from home. Mental health in the workplace has become a global issue and is placing a strain on the public health care system. Both organisations and individuals need to take action to help reduce the number of workplace caused mental illnesses. 

Mental illness significantly impacts both the personal and professional lives of those who are suffering. Research has found that mental illness has become the leading cause of work absence, disruption of productivity, and long term incapacity in the developed world. 

How to create a safe and healthy workplace?

Stress in the workplace can be caused by a number of factors: 

  • Lack of communication 
  • Lack of support 
  • Unfair treatment 
  • Heavy workload 
  • Job insecurity 
  • Harassment 

Memish and colleagues (2017) sought to answer this need by recommending the following: 

  1. Consistency of guidance material across regions: Guidelines addressing psychological needs should be both readily available and demonstrate effectiveness in benefiting employees.
  2. All businesses, no matter their size, should implement tools: It is vital for businesses to provide tools and resources to assist employees in maintaining a healthy mental state. It is also important for businesses to create a safe and supportive work environment.
  3. Consistency of language regarding mental health: Creating consistent terminology differentiating between mental health and mental illnesses can help reduce stigma and stereotypes surrounding mental illnesses. Ultimately, this will  help encourage employees to seek assistance if experiencing workplace issues. 

How to help a colleague or employee struggling with mental health

Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask about their situation. When doing so, it is important to be aware of any stereotypes and biases you may hold, and to ensure these do not negatively impact your effort to offer support. It is also important to be mindful of confidentiality and avoid putting pressure on the person who is confiding in you.

Assure them they have your support and care and also recommend they seek professional assistance if their situation is truly causing them distress. It is important to let them know it’s okay to acknowledge if something is upsetting them and to seek help. Companies can assist in promoting workplace mental health by providing employees with professional psychological assistance, such as free or discounted counselling.