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Making Space for Mental Health in the Workplace

This year, mental health feels more top of mind than ever. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year and more than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. While these statistics mean that over 44 million Americans are experiencing some form of mental illness, 56% go without receiving any treatment. 

While there are many reasons that can deter us from seeking treatment, stigma, and fear. Shame around mental health is still prevalent. Mental illnesses are often “invisible” and thus not seen as having the same importance as other illnesses. Even worse, they are often still perceived as weaknesses.  

As employers, changing the conversation around mental health and helping our employees know how to access the appropriate resources is vital to ensuring healthy and thriving workplaces. According to the Center for Workplace Mental Health, American Psychiatric Association Foundation, 80% of employees treated for mental illness have reported improved levels of work efficacy and satisfaction. Workplaces that have a mental health support system in place report lower levels of absenteeism, increased productivity, and a healthier bottom line. 

We can start this movement towards a healthier workplace by empowering managers with basic mental health training. This does not mean that managers should take on the role of therapists– on the contrary, your training should warn against assuming this type of role. Rather, by equipping managers with basic mental health training, we can start to build a support network that allows employees to share their concerns as well as allows managers to spot any signs of distress. When managers are trained on how to listen and what to look out for, they can better guide employees to the appropriate resources. 

On a company-wide scale, we can demonstrate our commitment to a healthier workplace by holding safe space forums to talk about mental health. It’s important to set guidelines for your forum and share them ahead of time with the group. Guidelines might include being able to share the concepts discussed, but not specific anecdotes. To help kick off the forum, consider watching a video together on the subject. TED Conferences and Seize the Awkward have collections of short videos that can serve as a baseline for your discussion. Be sure to watch the video in advance and come up with 2 -3 discussion questions to help guide the conversation. 

This Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s pledge to make space for mental health a year-round conversation. For more information and access to free mental health trainings check out:

Center for Workplace Mental Health

Workplace Strategies for Mental Health 


— Sara Martinez-Noriega, Director of HR, Direct Agents

Reach out to marketing@directagents.com if you have any questions.

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