OSEA Safety Blog

Mental Health in the Workplace

Monday, September 20, 2021 Tiffany Bartz

A large portion of a safety professional’s career is focused on the physical health and well-being of employees. However, the mental health of employees is just as important. Poor mental health can create many risks for the employer as well as the employee.

A negative working environment may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity. Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity. Half of Americans say their mental health has been affected by the pandemic. When you add racial injustices and a recession into the equation, a mental health crisis is imminent. Now more than ever, companies need to provide employees with access to convenient, quality and affordable mental health care to ensure workers are safe, healthy, happy and productive

When thinking about a broader mental health strategy, organizations need to think comprehensively about how mental health shows up and how it can be supported throughout the organization. Workplace mental health includes managers advocating resources and a healthy culture, as well as supervisors proactively creating a safe, supportive and sustainable environment.

There are many effective actions that companies can take to promote mental health in the workplace. The first goal is to inform employees that it is ok to disclose a mental illness to human resources and to ask for help if they need it. Provide an explanation of benefits to ensure that employees know what resources are available to them. Ensure that your policy details how employees can ask for reasonable accommodations for a mental health condition and explain that their information will be kept confidential.

Mental health interventions should be delivered as part of an integrated health strategy that covers prevention, early identification, support and rehabilitation. Occupational health services or professionals may support organizations in implementing these interventions where they are available, but even when they are not, a number of changes can be made that may protect and promote mental health. Key to success is involving management and staff at all levels when providing protection, promotion and support interventions and when monitoring their effectiveness.

A healthy workplace is one where workers and managers actively promote and protect the health, safety and well-being of all employees. Companies can protect mental health by reducing work–related risk factors. Promote mental health by developing the positive aspects of work and the strengths of employees. Mental health issues should be addressed regardless of cause. Workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains.

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