The Importance of Mental Health Services in The Workplace

It’s common knowledge that our emotional and psychological state is highly influenced by our work, whether it be good or bad. And while research continues to grow in this area, one thing remains clear: a negative workplace can lead to various physical and mental health difficulties, including depression, anxiety, and addiction.

Research has shown that a hostile work environment can have devastating effects on employees’ physical and mental health. An inadequate amount of sleep, for instance, increases the chances of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease and even reduces life expectancy. But it’s not just individuals who are affected – companies suffer economically as well due to their staff’s poor mental well-being. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that five out of ten top global causes of disability are related to mental health conditions, equating up to one trillion US dollars per year in productivity loss across the world economy.

Companies that focus on good mental health and aid workers with psychological issues are far more likely to experience a boost in productivity, as well as reduced absenteeism. This can result in considerable economic advantages for these organizations. It’s essential to recognize the impact of an employee’s mental health on their performance at work, disability costs, and medical bills. Employers’ associations, labor unions, and government authorities now realize the immense financial burden brought about by such challenges cannot be overlooked any longer.


The Connection Between Poor Mental Health And Substance Use In The Workplace

Recent studies have highlighted the interconnectedness between mental health and substance use in the workplace. Unfortunately, very few employers are taking preventative action, with 48% of working adults reporting that their employer does not provide resources for meeting mental health needs or managing stress. Thankfully, more organizations are rising to face these issues as awareness grows about how many employees grapple with such problems.


Why Mental Health Services Are Needed In The Workplace

In the US, an astonishing 1 in 5 employees has admitted that mental health issues have made their job responsibilities more arduous to manage. Interestingly, this figure is significantly higher amongst younger workers. Only 5 percent of baby boomers said mental health problems hinder work performance compared to 17% of Gen-Xers and 29% of millennials.

Younger generations’ heightened understanding of wellness, combined with their desire to keep up with the demands and expectations placed on them at work, might be a driving factor in this shift. Thankfully, numerous employers are now committed to providing quality support for employees’ mental health as part of their efforts toward promoting better work-life balance. By meeting some of these needs within the workplace itself, workers can more easily manage achieving that sought-after equilibrium between both aspects.


How Our Environment Affects Our Well-Being

To gain insight into how our environment can negatively affect mental health, the Vitamin Model of Mental Health provides a comprehensive framework. Just like vitamins are crucial for physical health, this model uses the same analogy to address mental well-being.

Although vitamins A and D are crucial for a healthy lifestyle, an abundance of them can be damaging. In contrast, vitamins C and E have no such harm when consumed in large amounts. Similarly, the psychological environment plays a significant role in our well-being, but as its level increases, it can have varying effects on each individuals mental health condition.

The Vitamin Model was initially developed to offer a comprehensive view of how the psychological dynamics in any atmosphere could impact mental health and well-being. It explores and assesses issues that could potentially affect one’s mental state in order to create balanced lives filled with joy and contentment. In recent years, it has been adopted to examine contentment or discontent in various contexts, such as workplace settings.

The model suggests that the success of both employees and businesses is linked to creating a healthy workspace, which can be attained through cultivating these key attributes:

  • Addressing mental health stigma: Support team members by extending our employee assistance programs and ensuring everyone knows that help is accessible.
  • Employee involvement: Showing employees that their voice matters and allowing them to exercise more control over their work are two essential components of effective empowerment. Involving staff in decision-making and giving them greater autonomy can help elevate employee morale, increase engagement, and foster a healthier workplace culture.
  • Healthy scheduling: By providing employees with the option of a flexible work schedule, along with additional benefits such as flex time, employers can help them manage their responsibilities at both home and in the office.
  • Growth and development: Acknowledge the value of personal and professional growth. Offer various opportunities such as continuing education programs, tuition reimbursement plans, and leadership development initiatives to help employees reach their goals of success.
  • Wellness programs: Providing employees with beneficial programs that aid in the optimization of physical and mental well-being, allowing them to create a healthier lifestyle.
  • Employee recognition: Rewarding employees for their hard work and dedication is a great way to build morale and encourage productivity. Providing monetary bonuses, pay increases based on performance, profit-sharing initiatives, employee awards programs, or simply expressing your appreciation can all be effective methods of incentive.


Services For Mental Illness And Substance Use

Taking employee well-being seriously, the workplace stands as an ideal platform to confront mental health and substance abuse issues. Establishing an Employee Assistance Program is undoubtedly the most successful measure for doing so.

Employee assistance programs aim to optimize the performance of all individuals involved in work-related activities. Through the use of psychology and its various principles, organizations can better understand how to promote employee welfare and aid their productivity levels. By recognizing that creating an environment full of health and well-being will boost overall organizational success, businesses will be able to benefit from these programs even more significantly.

Along with this, other suggestions may include:

  • Establishing a drug-free environment and implementing clearly defined policies regarding substance abuse
  • Providing health coverage that is thorough in addressing substance use disorder concerns
  • Supplementing with aftercare and counseling
  • Addressing and reducing the negative stereotypes surrounding mental health in your workplace
  • Using company wellness programs as an effective way to help employees understand the detrimental impacts of substance use on their health and productivity.


Tips For Your Organization to Promote Mental Health Awareness

Even if your company doesn’t have a program in place to support employees with mental health issues, a few key strategies can help you get started:

  • Create a culture of acceptance
  • Raise awareness about the reality of mental health challenges
  • Support employees through formal training and education
  • Incentivize wellness initiatives
  • Promote wellness in benefits packages


The first step here may be the most important. There’s sometimes the fear of repercussions or a fear that people will be viewed as weaker or less than others. Depending upon the mental illness, people may even feel they have a moral failing of their own. Because of the stigma associated with mental health issues, employers need to ensure that individuals feel supported and are provided with the necessary resources to do their job.

Psychological safety can be described as a climate in which people are comfortable expressing themselves and allowing employees to feel respected and included. This is especially true for teams. If team members frequently do not feel they are in a group that is safe for interpersonal risk-taking, motivation, morale, creativity, and even innovation can drop.” Further, employees who work in strength-based organizations stay with their company longer, feel more engaged, learn their roles more quickly, and produce higher quality work.

With estimations that about half of the workforce is not engaged, most organizations will fall far short of their goal to reach their true people potential. So the question becomes, how do organizations move the meter on employee engagement?

It’s really quite simple. When people feel valued for their work, when leaders work hard to applaud people doing something right and share their praise and feedback widely and often, employees feel better. They feel more committed, they are happier at work, and they are more engaged. When workplace happiness goes up, guess what? Productivity rises right alongside it. The best perk is the one that costs the least: a flexible attitude.


The Future of Workplace Mental Health

Paying attention to creating psychologically healthy work environments is an integral part of any successful venture, as the quality of our workspace profoundly affects our emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. It should be a priority for organizational leaders due to its critical importance in maintaining company health and because avoiding potential issues is always better than curing them afterward.

No matter your role in any workplace, you have the power to make a positive difference by simply expressing that you care about the mental health of those around you. Showing genuine support and offering assistance can go a long way in fostering an encouraging work environment for everyone.


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The Union Workforce Initiative is for educational, training, and awareness purposes only. This is not an Employee Assistance Program. We help build awareness within the workforces of employer/employee assistance professionals, substance abuse professionals, nurses, doctors, and other educational professionals.