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A confluence of factors — largely stemming from stress and a loss of connections amid COVID-19 — has contributed to a substantial rise in mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
“Mental health therapists are busier than they have ever been,” Laraine Murdock, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) who practices with Revere Health, told their St. George, UT Behavioral Health Location. “People’s lives are out of balance.”
This affects all aspects of life, including the workplace. According to CDCpoor mental health and stress can negatively affect work performance and productivity, work engagement, communication with co-workers, and day-to-day functioning at work.
As a mental health coaching service article Better Up says, “Supporting mental health in the workplace is no longer pleasant, but a necessity.”
So what can employers do to prioritize this need? Here are four proven strategies:
1. De-stigmatize the issue of mental health in the workplace
More employees are talking about their mental health at work than in 2019, according to survey results published in harvard business review (HBR). However, only 49% said their experience of talking about mental health at work was positive.
HBR offers several strategies to solve this problem, including:
- Train leaders to treat mental health as an organizational priority (beyond HR)
- Empower employees to form Employee Mental Health Resource Groups (ERGS)
- Set standards for communication, responsiveness and urgency
- Encourage leaders to share their views and experiences related to mental health
“Employers need to shift from seeing mental health as an individual challenge to a collective priority,” suggests HBR. “Given all the factors at play in the workplace, companies can no longer compartmentalize mental health as an individual’s responsibility to care for themselves through self-care, mental health days or ‘social advantages.”
Other organization-wide approaches could include regular mental health surveys to check in on employees, no after-hours emails, targeted work time, and no-meeting days.
A case study published by the Center for Workplace Mental Health details how a construction company, whose industry has the highest suicide rate of any occupational group, answered the question: “How can we reduce stigma and make so it’s acceptable to talk about mental health issues in a difficult environment – guy and girl environment”?
2. Educate employees
The CDC suggests employers hold seminars or workshops on depression and stress management techniques, such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation, to help employees reduce anxiety and stress. and improve concentration and motivation.
“Deep breathing puts pressure on your vagus nerve, which stimulates your calming system,” Murdock said. “Research old and new consistently places deep breathing at the forefront to help reduce the intensity of strong emotion.”
The CDC also suggests distributing materials, such as brochures, flyers and videos, to all employees about the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and treatment options.
However, do not strictly limit education efforts to mental wellness. Consider education in other areas that correlate with mental health, such as financial well-being.
Prudential Financial, an insurance and financial services company, did just that by introducing financial wellness programs to help employees learn how to manage their money, save and invest. This helped alleviate a major stressor for their employees and led to increased productivity and lower rates of absenteeism and depression.
3. Foster a culture to improve connections
Isolation has been a major driver of mental health issues since the COVID-19 pandemic. And the impact is real.
“A study by BYU and other universities found that loneliness is almost as detrimental as smoking in terms of reduced life expectancy,” said Clinical Mental Health Advisor (CMHC) Allan Pauole, who practice with Revere Health at their Provo, UT behavioral health location.
The good news is that creating a connected atmosphere in the workplace doesn’t have to be difficult.
“The most important thing is to make sure you check in with your colleagues and colleagues and ask them how they’re doing,” Paule said. “If I’m between patients, I always walk back and forth with the staff and crack jokes or say something to break the seriousness of what we’re doing. Little things go a long way.”
4. Adopt technological solutions – to a certain extent
According to a McKinsey & Company Article.
Apps like Calm and Headspace have been shown to promote positive mental health in their users.
“Headspace is good because it teaches you to be aware,” Murdock said. “Research shows that practicing mindfulness builds connections in your brain. It helps you come back to the here and now instead of worrying about the past or the future.
While new technologies can be helpful, they come with a caveat from Murdock.
“It’s great that we have tools like social media and Zoom, but they don’t replace face-to-face connections that release oxytocin and other hormones in your body that make you feel good.”
Struggling with your mental health? Revere Health can help
Revere Health has taken a unique approach to behavioral health by integrating it into its family practice clinics. There are several advantages to offering both services under the same roof:
“It provides continuity of care because you can take care of your physical and mental health in one place,” Paule said. “It also removes some of the stigma because when you walk into one of the family practice clinics, no one else in the waiting room knows why you’re there.”
Revere Health is also another option for those seeking treatment in the current stalemate.
“Sometimes if you’re seeking mental health services, it can take several weeks to be seen for an appointment,” Murdock said. “That’s why it’s so important for people to know that the clinic at Revere Health is open and accessible to everyone, because it’s just one more resource for people across the state.”
To visit reverehealth.com/specialty/behavioral-health/ for more information and to view a list of behavioral health clinics.