What is currently being done about mental health in the workplace and how to create a workplace that supports mental health?
By: Kristi Alarcon
In the past, the topic of mental health was a taboo subject, but the world is now gravitating toward a mental health-conscious community, unlike the way it was in the past. With family, friends and even celebrities opening about their mental health struggles, it has paved the way for others to share their own mental health journey.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Nearly one in five U.S. adults aged 18 or older (46.6 million people) reported that they have a mental illness in 2017.”
Unlike physical disabilities, having a mental illness isn't always visible to people around you, let alone the people that you work with every day. For those that suffer from a mental illness, this can be a double-edged sword in the workplace.
On one hand, it means discrimination is less likely to occur in comparison to someone with a more visible condition. On the other hand, when mental illness is taking a toll on your work ethic, outsiders can view the situation as if you're being lazy or not doing your job well.
Poor mental health can negatively affect an employee’s job performance, job productivity and communication with coworkers. Which leads to the question, “What do public relations students, who are going into a stressful profession, need to know about mental health in the workplace?”
So, what is currently being done about mental health in the workplace?
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), you have the right to not reveal that you suffer from any mental illness if it doesn't affect your ability to do your job. However, if special accommodation is needed, you may need to disclose your condition.
Fundamental protection under the ADA is that your employer cannot discriminate against you based on your circumstance. While employers hold the right to not employ anyone that they believe cannot perform the duties a job entails, they are not allowed to use mental illness alone as a reason to discipline or terminate you.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a government agency, enforces that ADA accommodates any condition that can substantially limit your ability to do your job.
These accommodations include but aren't limited to: permission to work from home, time off, a flexible work schedule and a more accommodating work environment.
What can be done about mental health in the workplace?
Even for Long Beach State students who don't suffer from a mental impairment themselves, it's vital to be an ally for those who don't have a loud enough voice to speak up. Here are a few tips for how to do so in the workplace:
● Encourage employers to offer mental health and stress management education programs.
● Adopt behaviors that promote stress management and mental health.
● Be open-minded about the experiences and feelings of co-workers.
● Offer peer support and encourage others to seek help.
All in all, by being mindful of those who are mentally challenged, employers can expect to increase the quality of thinking, decision-making, relationship and workflow. Mental illness affects each person differently, that is why it’s important for all employers and employees in the workplace to be aware and supportive.
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