Mental health has recently been a huge topic in the media and politics in the United States and the rest of the world for the past few years.  It seems like, more often than not, we are hearing about new ways to combat these symptoms in adults and children with a new product or treatment that is gaining popularity, or a food or medicine.  Mental health awareness is very much on the rise, but should we be paying more attention to it in the workplace?

Currently, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Almost 75% of people with mental disorders remain untreated in developing countries with almost 1 million people taking their lives each year. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 13, globally, suffers from anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders worldwide with specific phobia, major depressive disorder, and social phobia being the most common.  With this many people living with and fighting mental illness every day, should businesses be taking it more seriously? Why are so many people afraid or embarrassed to take a “mental health” or sick day? I believe it’s because we still don’t take our own mental health seriously enough, so why should our employer?

As a stay-at-home mom with two full-time jobs, I could use a “mental health day” from work, my beautiful baby boy and my husband once in a while (but not my dog because she’s perfect), and you want to know what… THAT’S OKAY!  There is this stigma that we need to hide our mental health vulnerability from people, especially at work. With everything basically relying on technology, we need time to disconnect with the world and reconnect with ourselves.  What are ways you can manage your mental health?


Take Care of Your Body

By eating nutritious meals, drinking plenty of water, getting exercise and getting enough sleep, you can improve your mental health.  When your body is happy, your mind can be happy too!

Surround Yourself with Positivity

Make sure the people around you are supportive of you and are available to boost you up if you need it.  This also means treating yourself with kindness and respect; try to avoid too much self-criticism.

Do Things You Love

Make time to set down the laptop, tablet, or phone to read a new book, go on a walk, play a game with your family, or take a nice long bubble bath with a glass of wine (my personal favorite).  Try and disconnect for a little bit and enjoy things you used to love before Wi-Fi.

Volunteer Your Time

Try something new, by helping others.  By volunteering your time at a homeless shelter, your local humane society, or after-school activities, you help someone in need and meet new people.  

Practice Mindfulness

This meditation originates from Buddhism and is the practice of being present and deliberately aware of our inner thoughts and surroundings.  This practice combines traditional cognitive therapy techniques and mindfulness practices. This can mean anything from relaxation exercises, doodling, adult coloring books, or traditional meditation.

Know When to Seek Help

Being aware of a little bit of stress vs. a full mental breakdown is very important.  Seeking help is NOT a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength. People who get appropriate care can recover much quicker and lead full rewarding lives.

Taking your mental health into your own hands is important, but so is getting support from those around you including your place of employment. It’s not an easy conversation to have on either end, but it’s time that it started happening everywhere.  Mental health affects worker productivity and the bottom line. Workplaces consultant, Peldon Rose, did a survey for office workers in July 2018 and 72% of employees want employers to champion mental health and well-being. This was rated more important than equality (48%), sustainability (38%), and diversity (31%).  So, the next question is, how can employers help?

Increase Awareness

Giving your employees access to resources and education on the topic from not only your HR department, but also national organizations is a great way of increasing awareness.  You can also increase awareness by starting a program within your company. EY (formerly Ernst & Young), is one of the largest professional services firms in the world and is one of the “Big Four” accounting firms.  They launched their “r u ok?” program to address mental illness and addiction at EY. The program incorporates employee champions, cross-country presentations, virtual events, e-learning curriculums, peer-to-peer connections, and follow-up services, like EY Assist, EY’s EAP program.

Offer Manager Training

Require managers to attend mental health seminars to better give them an understanding for detecting somebody in mental distress and how to help.  Managers are usually under the impression of a one-size-fits-all fix, but it’s important to know that every employee is different and may need a different solution.  

Create a Positive Team Environment

Engaging employees in ongoing conversations about different solutions, constructive feedback, and positive reinforcement can help reduce negativity and defensiveness in the workplace.  As much as you have these conversations with your employees, recognize that it is just as important to listen, so your employees really feel like they are being heard. By strengthening your relationships with them, you will have a more positive atmosphere in your office.

Encourage Work-Life Balance

Offering flexible work options can help reduce stress and prevent burnouts in the workplace.  Simply by providing flexible hours, this can help reduce stress in employees because they can avoid busy drive times, get their kids to school, or be out in time to catch a soccer game, schedule medical appointments, etc.  For example, Netflix doesn’t stick to the regular 9-to-5 workday; instead, they give their employees the flexibility to choose what is important to them. By giving your employees the opportunity to choose their schedule and time off when their mind and body need a break, you give them control of their mental well-being.

Your mental health shapes how you function and make choices, both in your career and at home.  It’s time to end these stigmas around mental health and give your mind a little break to enjoy the things that are truly beautiful and important in this world.