According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 adults in the US experiences mental illness in a given year. The statistics on mental illness are staggering. Most mental health services are relegated to a company’s employee assistance program (EAP). We talk about all the great perks we offer, but very few, if any, support better mental health assistance. We’d rather provide pet insurance or free lunches instead of taking care of the mental well-being of our employees. I’m challenging HR professionals and influencers to speak more openly about the benefits of mental health services and look for more proactive ways to help employees.
Organizations love to glorify the grind and the hustle. We wear our long hours and hard work like a badge of honor. We promote down-time as time for the weak. If you’re not grinding, someone else is stealing your cheese. While there is a lot of good that comes from the advice of those who have “made it,” ignoring the real issues of mental health and the value of professional help can be naive, careless, and irresponsible.
As HR professionals, we need to be advocating for more than just wellness. Yes, mindfulness, meditation, and an active lifestyle are an important component to mental health, but it is not the only way. Encouraging and making mental health services available and accessible as much as a primary care physician should be a priority. Breaking the stigma of mental health and having open dialogue should be mandatory. EAP programs are great, but many are reactionary. We only recommend them when someone is in crisis, not as a way to prevent or manage mental health. This needs to change.
I’d like to see more HR professionals write and speak about the importance of mental health. One author and writer I truly admire is Brad Stulberg. He co-authored the book, “Peak Performance,” and I read and reviewed the book, last summer. The book talks about how to sustain high performance and details the formula, “Stress + Rest = Growth.” Check it out.
Brad is also a columnist for Outside magazine. As an expert on performance and stress, Brad wrote about his struggles with anxiety and depression and the importance of seeking professional help. His vulnerability and openness about anxiety is refreshing. Even the experts seek professional help because exercise, meditation, and sleep alone cannot cure depression. Just like we would seek professional help for strep throat, we need to seek professional help for mental illness.
Later this month, I’m going to feature an organization that is trying to break the stigma of mental illness in the workplace. I love this idea and the great work they are already doing to help employees proactively manage their mental health to lead more productive lives.
Wellness programs that offer discounts to gym memberships are not enough. Your standing desks and Fitbit walking challenges won’t cut it anymore. Offering meditation lounges and healthy foods are nice but they are not enough. As HR professionals, we need to be more proactive and open about the benefits of any mental health programs we provide. Highlight the EAP as a proactive benefit and not as a reactive measure when someone is in danger. We have an obligation to provide the best benefits to our employees and this goes beyond physical health.
Originally posted on John P. Hudson blog.