May is Mental Health Month, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is asking, “Why care?” Their research provides some eye-opening reasons, including, “one in five people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime,” and “approximately 46.6 million adults in the United States face the reality of managing a mental illness every day.”
As an employer, making a commitment to cultivating a supportive environment is more important than ever. According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), while research shows that feeling a sense of comfort and openness at work leads to better performance, engagement, employee retention, and overall well being, less than one third of people with mental illness get the treatment they need.
By the numbers, HBR cites that $17-44 billion is lost to depression each year, whereas $4 is returned to the economy for every $1 spent caring for people with mental illness.
What can be done to turn the tide on mental health issues at work, leading to a happier, healthier workforce? This Mental Health Month, consider the following steps:

Invite Mental Health Experts into the Office

In many cases, mental health concerns might be out of your area of expertise – and that’s okay! The first step in creating a supportive environment for workplace wellness is often recognizing the limits of the help you can provide. Instead of ignoring issues or offering inaccurate advice, consider welcoming mental health experts into the office to start conversations, share information and provide helpful resources. Organizations like the aforementioned NAMI can facilitate presentations by professionals during lunch & learn or other similar events in the office.

Build in Time for Mental Breaks

Over the course of a busy work day/week/year, it’s surprisingly easy to continue working while blasting past lunchtime and any opportunities for a break. Unfortunately, burnout is real and affects professionals in all industries. As more stress is applied to an employee’s mental well being, things like the ability to focus, interpersonal relationships and self-care can all suffer. To avoid these negative consequences, it’s important to not only encourage regular breaks for all employees, but to offer flexible scheduling opportunities.

Provide a Safe Space for Feedback

Often times, mental health issues can worsen over time if an individual does not feel as though they have an outlet to share thoughts, ask questions and be heard. While many managers may advocate an “open door policy” when it comes to office communication, some concerns may require a different approach than a quick chat in the boss’s office. Instead, consider implementing a tool for workplace feedback with the option to remain anonymous. For example, TINYPulse offers teams an opportunity to celebrate each other’s accomplishments, offer suggestions and engage in anonymous conversations about important issues facing the workplace.
This Mental Health Month, make a commitment to creating a healthy workplace environment for your team! How do you address mental health concerns in the workplace? Share your experience in the comment section below!
The thoughts and opinions expressed above are solely the author’s who is not a trained or licensed professional in the field of mental health. The article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgment of a healthcare or mental health care professional. Please always consult a trained mental health professional before making any decision regarding treatment for yourself or others.