May 10 Eliminate Mental Illness Stigma In The Workplace
May is “National Mental Health Awareness Month.” Unfortunately, there’s often a stigma surrounding mental health issues in the workplace.
Mental illness stigma can lead to many unwanted outcomes including discrimination, fewer opportunities, less understanding by co-workers, harassment, and even health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover mental health care. Here are a few things you can do to eliminate the mental health stigma in your workplace.
Establish Business Conduct Guidelines
Employers need to comply with state and federal law to prevent discrimination and harassment. Establishing and enforcing fair and equitable workplace guidelines for business conduct, including discrimination or harassment due to mental illness, helps employees understand their rights. Your company policies should also outline what an employee can do if they’re subjected to these behaviors.
Employment Assistance Program
According to Mental Health America, 1 in 4 adults has a diagnosable mental health disorder. Ignoring these disorders cannot only create hardships for employees, but also impact your company’s bottom line.
Provide access to Employment Assistance Programs as part of your workplace wellness strategy. It can help employees deal with emotional and stress-related pressures. Resources can include individual or group counseling, either face-to-face, via the internet or over the phone. Educational and information sessions and assessments and referrals should also be available for employees in need.
A strong workplace wellness program also promotes physical health, which directly impacts mental well-being. Encourage exercise, proper diet and sleep, stress management, and positive relationships to alleviate mental illness issues.
Ensure your company’s return-to-work program includes strategies for employees struggling with mental health issues. Accommodations could include initially assigning tasks the employee finds easiest to accomplish. Once they settle back into their job, increase their hours and introduce more difficult tasks.
Employers may also need to be more flexible with scheduling so employees can attend medical appointments or if their energy levels wane at certain times of the day. They may also need to pay close attention to stressors that could affect the employee adversely such as noise, strong lighting, etc.
Check Health Coverage
Almost 10 years after Congress passed the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act many insurance plans still scrimp on mental health coverage. Much mental health care falls outside of networks leading to high out-of-pocket expenses, even for those with insurance.
Fortunately, some insurers have dropped annual limits on annual visits to therapists and they’ve eliminated higher co-payments and separate deductibles for mental health treatments. Ensure your employees have adequate coverage as mental health is just as essential to well-being as physical health.
May is Mental Health Month and Mental Health America’s #4MIND4BODY CHALLENGE is a great way to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness.
Mental Health America posts a daily challenge on their website that’s quick and easy to do. It’s all about sharing discoveries so people understand that they’re not alone. The hope is to eventually overcome the mental health stigma.
Alternatively, contact a local mental health advocacy group to see if they offer lunch and learn seminars or webinars. Launch an anti-stigma campaign, educate employees and management on mental health and let them know about the resources available to them.
Mental illness is often treatable, but far too many avoid seeking treatment due to the stigma surrounding it. You can help eliminate mental illness stigma in the workplace by including mental health in your policies, procedures, and programs.