Normalizing Mental Health in the Workplace – University of Utah Health Care

Oct 28, 2021 11:30 AM

Jerilyn Stowe

The workplace is a crucial area to address mental health and suicide prevention. Nearly 68 percent of the American population participates in the workforce, and one in five Americans adults suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder in a given year. When an individual is struggling with their mental health or thoughts of suicide, it will most likely impact their place of work.

“Employers that normalize talking about mental health by sharing their own stories and modeling help-seeking and help-giving behavior reduce the stigma, misinformation, and fear surrounding mental health,” says Jason Hunziker, MD, Division Chief of Adult Psychiatry, Huntsman Mental Health Institute, and Medical Director of Behavioral Health, University of Utah Health Plans.

Training supervisors in the necessary skills to have conversations with employees about signs and symptoms of mental health, and connecting them to available mental health resources shows that leaders are demonstrating that they value mental health and address it openly.

Scheduling regular check-ins with employees to assess how people feel and supporting mental health education programs can help employees better understand their mental health and reach out when they need help. Providing mental health coverage as part of benefits packages is a critical step to supporting mental health.

“Thoroughly discussing mental health benefits and community resources available to employees will help normalize mental health as part of overall health and wellness,” Hunziker continues. “Employers that support wellness programs that provide mediation, yoga, or mindfulness can help decrease stress and burnout and increase connection with employees.”

To further mental health awareness in the workplace, there are a number of things employers can do, including:

  • Participate in national mental health screening days for depression or other mental health conditions
  • Develop protocols to address a mental health crisis in the workplace
  • Display and frequently share mental health resources and community crisis services with employees
  • Work with community mental health centers, university health systems, and community-based organizations to get access to experts that can provide education and information

“Integrating these practices into the workplace may be a life-saving step for an employee struggling with a mental health crisis,” Hunziker says. “Creating a culture that normalizes the idea of seeking help will encourage coworkers to help each other find support when they need it.”

As employers better learn to support their employees’ mental health, they can be a critical partner in …….


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