City of Concord employees are taking part in a series of quarterly presentations and workshops focusing on mental health in work environments.
“Mental health awareness is important for any employer, no matter the size of the company,” said Sarah Gagnon, Vice President of Clinical Operations at Riverbend Community Mental Health. Gagnon is leading the course titled “Mental Health 101.”
“We’re doing some anti-stigma activities and learning how to identify and understand behavioral health issues and talk openly about them,” Gagnon said. “We’re also working on recognizing mental health as part of overall wellness; that it’s about being your best self.”
There are approximately 157 million U.S. adults employed, and the average American worker spends more time working (over eight hours daily) than in any other activity apart from sleeping, according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly one in five American adults report behavioral health challenges each year. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health disorders in the US adult population. Rates are highest among women and among people aged 30 to 44. Substance use disorders are the next most common. These rates are highest among men and people aged 18 to 29. Impulse control disorders are the third-most common disorders with rates highest among men aged 18 to 29. Finally, mood disorders, which include Major Depressive Disorder, are most common among women and people between 18 and 29 years of age.
The 2017 national survey by the American Psychological Association reported the workplace as the third leading cause of stress (61%).
“Employers can do so much to create more welcoming and accepting workplaces. One of the first steps is to demonstrate leadership about having the behavioral health conversation,” said Riverbend Community Mental Health CEO Peter Evers.
“Your example can be a significant step forward in creating a culture of acceptance, and can help to reduce the huge human and economic costs of ignoring these issues,” Evers said.
Experts say one of the most important things that employers can do is to normalize the conversation about behavioral health issues. “Leadership is essential, and one of the best ways to lead is by example,” said Jaime Corwin, Riverbend’s Director of Human Resources. “All managers need to openly support behavioral health, talk about it in personal terms, and allow that to become part of the company’s culture.”
From a human resource perspective, Corwin explained, employers need to start thinking about handling ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) requests that pertain to mental health or substance misuse conditions in the same way as they do a request pertaining to a maternity leave or knee replacement.
“We need to work on reducing the fear factor around mental health topics,” Corwin said, “and getting informed by taking the Mental Health First Aid course is a great first step.”