With relatively recent campaigns and social media efforts to destigmatize mental illness and depression (see MakeItOK.org, Instagram’s #RealConvo and Facebook’s suicide prevention hub), it’s easy to think we’re only now taking steps to combat mental health issues. Not so. This month marks the 70th anniversary of Mental Health Awareness Month, a campaign started by the Mental Health America (MHA) organization in 1949.
The organization itself was founded in 1909. It would go on to help shape the national dialogue on mental health, spurring the “National Mental Health Act of 1946” which led to the creation of the National Institute of Mental Health which, in turn, later launched what became the Mental Health Awareness Month.
In other words, for more than a century, our nation has been trying to find solutions to mental health issues and treat, help and comfort those who suffer from them. It’s nothing new. But, sometimes, it’s hard to tell if we’re making a positive impact—especially in the workplace.
Why Mental Health Matters
One of the most common conditions that affect the mental health of many Americans is stress. And one of the most common sources of stress is the workplace, according to the American Psychiatric Foundation.
Students earning an online degree in Human Resource Management are in a great position to help employees deal with workplace stress more effectively. They’re also the ideal candidates to help employers create a psychologically healthy workplace. Your role as a human resources professional puts you in a unique position to empower the companies and people you work with.
The High Cost of Workplace Stress
Workplace stress can take a significant toll on a company’s bottom line. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), job-related stress is estimated to cost U.S. employers $300 billion a year in absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover, and direct medical, legal, and insurance fees. In addition, 66% of both men and women polled stated that work has a significant impact on their stress level. About one in four of these respondents admitted to calling in sick or taking a “mental health day” as a result of work-related stress. The Center for Workplace Mental Health reports that excessive workplace stress “causes a staggering 120,000 deaths and results in nearly $190 billion in healthcare costs each year.” This represents 5-8% of national healthcare spending.
What are some of the most common chief contributors to workplace stress, anger, and anxiety? According to the American Psychiatric Foundation[AS4] [CS5] , common stressors for employees are:
- High on-the-job demands
- Insufficient resources
- An effort-rewards imbalance where employees perceive their high efforts are met with low compensation or low recognition
- Job-related goals are perceived to be exceedingly difficult, rather than achievable challenges
What Can the Human Resources Department Do to Reduce Workplace Stress?
HR professionals are at the heart of a company’s quest to attract and retain high-quality employees, and it often falls on these professionals to find ways to increase worker morale and minimize workplace stress. Fortunately, there are a number of things HR can do to help reduce the stress of their employees, such as:
- Develop a wellness program
- Allow for flexible hours and/or remote work
- Provide fitness opportunities
- Encourage open and honest communication
- Stress importance of a healthy work/life balance
- Hold team-building exercises
Creating a positive climate and culture that results in a psychologically healthy workplace is a multifaceted, ongoing project[AS6] . It takes more than just knowing employment laws around mental health. It takes a consistent and concerted effort to give employees the tools they need to maintain a better emotional and mental balance for work and life.
From providing benefits packages that address mental health issues to offering practical tactics employees can use every day to relieve stress[CS7] , HR professionals are uniquely positioned to provide real assistance and make a difference during Mental Health Awareness Month, and every other month of the year.
Whether you’re looking for an undergraduate or graduate online degree in HR, Johnson & Wales University has you covered. Please complete the Request Info form on this page, call 855-JWU-1881, or email: [email protected]