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Nearly 1 in 5 American adults experience a mental health issue annually. Given that about 63% of Americans are participants in the US labor force, we can begin to understand how essential it is to address mental health needs in the workplace. It can be difficult enough to stay motivated and focused on work with everything else that may be happening in your life, let alone during an ongoing public health crisis. Many companies have realized the importance of mental wellness in the workplace and have implemented programs to provide assistance. On the other hand, there are many companies that do not offer help to their struggling employees, leaving workers in a difficult situation. Whether or not your workplace offers assistance with mental health, it is important to know how to effectively communicate your mental health needs in the workplace and advocate for your own mental well-being. 

How to Effectively Navigate Mental Health Conversations

Your boss or supervisor should be adamant about doing regular check-ins with their employees, although factors like employee to manager ratios and overall company size may be harder for some than others. Large corporations may expect supervisors to oversee numerous employees at once, which makes it difficult to schedule in time to have a genuine conversation about mental health. When you schedule a time to meet with your employer, make sure your communication is timely and effective. 

If you decide that a mental health conversation with your supervisor is needed, try to evaluate the root causes of your concerns and needs before your conversation. One-on-one conversations help to eliminate distractions and keep conversation intentional. Keeping an open dialogue is important whether you want to bring attention to situations happening within the workplace or if you are experiencing personal struggles at home. For example, if you have a mental health condition that may impair cognitive functioning, you may want your supervisor or employer to know if you begin to feel overwhelmed or discouraged. You do not have to disclose this information; however, doing so may help your workplace set better expectations for you. 

When you are initially hired into a workplace position, ask questions about the company’s mental health policies and if the workplace offers any assistance. You may also want to discuss work flexibility or if your employer allows time off for mental health days. Here are a few things that you may consider when navigating mental health needs in the workplace:

  • Implement a weekly mental health check-in for staff
  • Identify mental health assistance programs for staff
  • Ask co-workers about how you can be a source of support for them
  • Choose an effective time to hold a conversation with your supervisor
  • Avoid feeling ashamed or embarrassed when asking for help

Create a Workplace Support System

If you are struggling with your mental health, you may find it easier to go to work when you have a reliable support system within the workplace. Whether it is your first week on the job or you have been there for years, there are always steps you can take to make your workplace a more positive and engaging environment for staff. Regular check-ins with employees can allow others to feel appreciated and supported. Investigate signs of stress from yourself or your coworkers during a workday, and acknowledge that everyone experiences stress in different ways. You will be able to help your fellow staff to acknowledge when to ask or seek out help for different tasks, as well as when you should likewise ask for assistance. 

Always be sure to take time for yourself and your needs. If you are stressed out, you may not feel as motivated to help those around you. If you are struggling with a mental health crisis, make sure your boss knows that you are struggling. Creating a support system in the workplace can help everyone make it through tough times, regardless of their situation. 

Remember That You Are Not Alone

Although mental health is commonly ignored within the workplace, it continues to be one of the most common things that employees struggle with. A job itself can be demanding and stressful, especially when you may be trying to balance the stressors of both work life and personal life. It may help to look around at your coworkers and staff and realize that you are not alone. Everyone is experiencing demands of some kind, whether it be through their relationships, family, career, finances, or a mix of everything. When you take the initiative to have a mental health conversation in the workplace, you are taking a first step that many of your coworkers may be hesitant or uncomfortable making themselves. You are creating space for the communication of mental needs. 

By surfacing your mental health needs, you may encourage someone else to step forward about the struggles they are facing. Conversations may lead to altering workplace policies to ensure a more positive and inviting environment for employees. As many of us would like to work in a supportive and encouraging atmosphere, communicating your own needs may make a direct and long-lasting impact within your work environment. 

Addressing mental health needs within the workplace is an ongoing issue, as nearly 1 in 5 adults are affected by mental health issues. Addiction and mental illness are not put on hold when we begin our workday, but instead may cause us to feel overwhelmed and incapable of completing daily work tasks. We must learn how to navigate and normalize conversations about mental health with our supervisors and co-workers to ensure a more accepting and supportive workplace atmosphere. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we understand how mental health conditions can severely reduce motivation and negatively impact our work ethic. We believe that treatment is necessary for anyone that is experiencing impairment in cognitive or mental functioning due to a mental health condition. For more information about communicating mental health needs or about the treatment options we offer, please give us a call here at West Coast Recovery at (760) 492-6509.

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