Workplace Wellbeing

It Starts with You: How to Advocate for a Mentally Healthy Workplace

Creating a mentally healthy workplace starts with you. Explore ways you can achieve this and become a mental health advocate at your organization.

Written by
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Kris Kopac
Clinically reviewed by
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    Supporting mental health in the workplace has evolved into a full-blown movement—and is poised to create a happier and more productive environment for everyone.

    Studies show that employees want their companies to talk about and support mental health. In fact, a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that 84% of respondents reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental health. 

    The good news: you have the power to create a mentally healthy workplace and normalize mental health conversations within your organization.

    Mental health advocacy starts with you

    There are many different ways to approach mental health advocacy in your organization.

    How you decide to approach it may depend on:

    • Your role within the company
    • Your relationships with other employees and organizational leaders
    • Your own personal experiences around mental health

    Every individual in an organization has the capability to be open about mental health challenges, destigmatize mental health conditions, and create a positive ripple effect on the people around them.

    Advocacy may look like:

    • Pursuing mental health coverage and accessibility within the organization
    • Sharing your own struggles with mental health
    • Finally scheduling your own therapy appointment
    • Encouraging a fellow employee or direct report to seek the help they need

    If you're an HR or business leader, you have an especially powerful opportunity to create a workplace focused on mental wellness. This will positively influence the people around you to make proactive decisions to care for their own wellbeing, and that of their colleagues.

    Whether you take big steps or small ones, every individual effort matters. Below, we explore how you can contribute to a culture of success and longevity—one that provides access to mental health and creates a deep sense of belonging.

    Transforming culture starts with you

    As a leader in your business, normalizing seeking help is foundational to creating an effective change for mental wellness in the workplace.

    One study by Mental Health America found that employees with depression don’t seek treatment because they fear it will have a negative impact on their job, or they fear insurance won’t cover the costs.

    Whether employees are struggling with depression or other types of mental illness, here are several ways to ensure they feel more safe asking for help.

    Provide management training

    Offer training programs for managers, so they’re equipped to effectively address issues with tact and care.

    A training program may include information around:

    • Which mental health resources are currently available within the organization
    • Confidentiality and medical privacy in the workplace
    • How to communicate access to these resources within different teams
    • How to identify when an employee is potentially struggling with mental health issues
    • How to tactfully approach an employee and help provide them with any resources they need
    • How to avoid stigmatizing comments around mental health in the workplace

    Training managers around mental health issues creates a foundational ripple effect for positive change at work.

    Share your own stories with mental health

    Business leaders who speak of their own struggles with mental health also create a culture of de-stigmatization. This encourages their employees to feel safer in discussing the struggles they face.

    Have you ever struggled with depression, anxiety, or OCD? Maybe you went through a difficult time when grieving a loved one or going through a major transition in life. 

    You can share as many or as few details as you want. Opening up that discussion and destigmatizing mental health challenges can genuinely influence someone to seek help.

    Overall, transforming culture to support mental health has positive effects across the board—both for the wellbeing of employees, and the productivity and longevity of the company.

    A culture of belonging and inclusion starts with you

    Mental health is a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) issue.

    A recent study conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review found that the highest cause of employee turnover is a toxic work culture. And a toxic work culture often includes a space where DEIB are neither present nor prioritized.

    Facing discrimination in the workplace also creates mental and physical health effects such as anxiety, psychological distress, and even cardiovascular problems.

    As a company leader, prioritizing DEIB in the workplace is a de facto way to prioritize better mental health. This is especially true as individuals from minority groups with a mental illness are more likely to be misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed, and receive lower quality care.

    Ensure that your organization is taking concrete steps to create an inclusive and safe work environment. We have more tips on doing that here.

    A mentally healthy workplace starts with you

    Working to remove the stigma is only part of the equation for creating a mentally healthy workplace. Giving affordable access to mental health care is another crucial step.

    That’s because access to mental health care in the United States is often expensive and prohibitive. According to a 2022 report by the U.S. Senate, more than half of people who need mental healthcare do not receive it.

    Business leaders can turn the tide by offering accessible solutions to their employees. Without affordable accessibility, employees have limited resources to improve their mental health conditions.

    Here are steps you can take to significantly impact the mental wellbeing your company:

    • Provide affordable mental health benefits to employees and educate them on its widespread availability
    • Offer paid parental leave for new parents (mental health conditions affect one in five birthparents) 
    • Provide sufficient PTO and encourage employees to take it—including mental health days
    • Support and model a healthy work/life balance to prevent burnout

    Overall, business leaders who take the reins and put resources into mental healthcare for their employees will see positive effects across the board.

    Whether it's speaking up about your own struggles with mental health, or working to expand affordable access within your company, it starts with you. Your employees and organization can move in a positive direction toward change.

    Spring Health can help

    As a business leader, you have the power to make a real difference in your employees’ lives. By doing so, you can empower them to help themselves in a way that they weren't able to before.

    Spring Health eliminates barriers to mental health. We use clinically validated technology to match each member of your team to the right care from the start. You can learn more about us here.

    About the Author
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    Kris Kopac

    Kris is a writer and marketer based in Chicago. Kris specializes in subjects around HR, recruiting, and employee happiness.

    About the clinical reviewer
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