Mental Health Stigma Is Still A Huge Issue At Work, & It Can Affect Access To Care
Mental health in the workplace was the theme for World Mental Health Day, which took place this past Oct. 10. Corporations all over the U.S. have started to place a heavier emphasis on mental health care, and research has shown that employees who are in good mental health are more likely to show up to work and spend their time productively. But two new studies have found that mental health stigma and barriers to access are still huge issues at work. Employees fear stigma when discussing mental health at work, and have a hard time finding a quality provider through their employer's insurance, according to the research. A survey from by DPG PLC, a company that hosts leadership and management courses, found that almost everyone thinks they'll be viewed differently for doing things like taking a mental health day, and more than half of people wouldn't tell a manager they were dealing with a mental health issue. And a report from ConsumerMedical, a health concierge company, found that more than half of employees in the U.S. have dealt with a mental health issue personally or through a family member in the last year. Even with the discussions happening about mental health care, mental health in the workplace is still a huge issue worldwide.
Finding Help Can Take A Long Time & Lower Productivity Levels
According to the survey conducted by ConsumerMedical, employees wait three weeks, on average, to see a medical professional after reaching out for help. One study found that the average wait time for a doctor's appointment, regardless of specialty, is over 18 days. It should come as no surprise that waiting during a time of crisis can cause breakdowns, anxiety, or even suicidal ideation.
With people waiting so long to get help, the survey's findings regarding productivity are unsurprising. Nearly 75 percent of people say that mental health concerns have affected their productivity levels at work. Additionally, the stress related to finding a qualified medical professional was a distraction while working for nearly half of the people surveyed.
Most People Won't Tell Their Managers About Mental Health Issues
We've all called in sick on days we probably could've made it to work, à la Ferris Bueller's Day Off. But if you're feeling unwell and it's related to your mental health, would you let your boss know?
The majority of employees wouldn't, according to the findings from DPG PLC. Only 42 percent of people would tell their managers they were struggling with mental health issues. When 85 percent of workers think they'll be judged for sharing their mental illnesses with their colleagues, it's no surprise people aren't eager to spill the truth.
Stigma is a reason people keep quiet, but another reason that may surprise you? They don't think their bosses can handle it. Only 1 in 5 workers say their managers are prepared to discuss mental health at work, and asking for help has been proven hard. One study found that 40 percent of Americans with mental illness think its difficult or nearly impossible to ask for help.
Leaders Can Take Steps To Make Things Better For Their Employees
If you're a leader within an organization, there's good news: You can take steps to make life easier for your employees. With 1 in 5 adults experiencing mental illness during any given year, there's a good chance someone within your organization is struggling. Here are actionable steps you can take.
- Make sure your employee assistance program (EAP) is equipped to offer mental health advice. About 20 percent of employees are dissatisfied with the support they receive from an EAP.
- Build trust with your team. DPG PLC says in a press release about the study that a social bond is essential, and employees are honest with managers who genuinely value them.
- Encourage your company to train its leaders. Leadership teams should be able to offer appropriate advice and direct employees struggling with mental health issues to the correct resources.
You can also be open about your mental health struggles, which helps fight stigma and allows your employees to see you as a human being. Regardless of the approach you take, it's important to create a space where employees feel comfortable and safe discussing their mental health issues, for the sake of the company and for greater mental healthcare as a whole.