Ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health concerns have loomed large. Business leaders and HR directors have been increasingly attuned to the realities of depression, anxiety, and trauma, all of which can have a silent yet profound effect on employees.
The catch-22 of mental health in the workplace is that these issues plague many of us; and yet, there remains a reluctance to speak openly about these shared experiences. Indeed, for HR departments that wish to support their employees’ mental wellbeing, one of the big challenges is overcoming the pervasive sense of stigma.
The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Concerns
The statistics paint a troubling picture: Many mental health disorders go unaddressed because people are just too ashamed to talk about them. As such, they suffer quietly, never talking with their employer or HR manager, let alone a qualified mental health professional.
Consider: The nonprofit organization Mental Health America recently conducted a survey in which two thirds of employees said their company’s leadership fails to speak clearly and candidly about mental health in the workplace. In the same survey, just over a third of employees said they would feel comfortable asking their manager or supervisor for a mental health accommodation.
The bottom line? Stigma looms large in the American workplace, and results in far too many mental health concerns going unaddressed. The question is, what can HR do about it?
There are actually some simple steps leaders can take to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health concerns.
One step is to make a casual check-in. As you talk with employees at meetings, daily huddles, or one-on-ones, don’t settle for idle small talk. Be intentional about asking if anyone has faced any workplace stress or anxiety lately. Gather feedback and create an environment in which employees feel comfortable talking frankly about their struggles. These conversations can be great starting points to express your concern, or to relate some of your own mental health challenges.
Simply put, talking openly about mental health struggles can normalize vulnerability and candor. It can slowly lead to more in-depth conversations. It’s also helpful when employees hear respected or senior-level employees discussing their mental health struggles, making it clear that these struggles don’t have to impact professional success or career advancement.
Finally, make sure there are resources available to employees who need them. Supply managers and supervisors with brochures, websites, phone numbers, or any other supportive materials they can offer to employees who articulate mental health hardships.
These are just a few of the ways in which HR teams can play an important role in breaking down stigma, and in creating workplaces that are more supportive of employees facing anxiety, depression, or trauma. With any additional questions, reach out to FullHR today.