Workplace Wellbeing

World Mental Health Day: Workplace Mental Health Matters Every Day of the Year

On World Mental Health Day, we recognize that mental health is a fundamental human right.

Written by
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Jess Maynard
Clinically reviewed by
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A group of coworkers discussing mental health topics during World Mental Health Day

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    Each year, World Mental Health Day (WMHD) challenges the deeply-rooted stigma and shame that have historically obscured mental health issues around the globe. Mental health experiences are profoundly personal, yet WMHD on October 10 serves as a reminder that mental health is a universal human right. 

    The World Federation for Mental Health initiated WMHD in 1992. This year, under the theme “Mental Health is a Universal Human Right,” they emphasize mental health as a fundamental right accessible to all, regardless of identity or location.

    Amid the daily routine of our individual lives and the chaotic nature of global events, it’s easy for mental health awareness to get overshadowed. World Mental Health Day reminds us that addressing mental health at the individual, societal, and global levels is a year-round commitment deserving our attention and action. 

    This day is a reminder that mental health matters for everyone, everywhere. 

    The global mental health landscape

    Nearly one billion people globally grapple with diagnosable mental health conditions, making them the primary cause of years lived with disability. Despite this alarming prevalence, accessing mental health services remains a significant challenge, with up to 70% of individuals not receiving treatment. 

    The scale of mental health issues worldwide is staggering. A recent, extensive global study revealed that one in two people across the globe will develop a mental health condition in their lifetime. Consequently, this issue significantly impacts workplaces and organizations. 

    World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity to focus on employee mental health. It encourages workplace leaders to raise awareness and promote mental well-being within their companies and organizations, addressing a concern that affects countless individuals in their professional lives. 

    Employee mental health is a big part of the equation

    As of 2022, 60% of the world’s population works, and much of that workforce struggles with mental health. Depression and anxiety alone cost companies $1 trillion globally in lost productivity. Furthermore, it’s estimated that one in four people worldwide currently suffers from a mental health condition, indicating the scale of this issue.  

    A recent Gallup survey found that 44% of employees experienced significant stress, which tied a record high in 2021. This trend, persisting for almost a decade, has created an atmosphere of high stress among workers globally.

    Employees in East Asia, the U.S., and Canada share the highest stress levels globally. Additionally, younger and remote workers, facing exceptionally high-stress levels, emerge as the most stressed-out workers worldwide.

    Global factors influencing employee mental health 

    Accessing mental healthcare is held back by various interconnected barriers, including:

    • Insufficient providers: The limited availability of mental health professionals creates significant obstacles for individuals seeking care.
    • Transportation challenges: Many face difficulty reaching mental health services due to a lack of accessible transportation options.
    • Cultural disparities: The absence of culturally-responsive screening tools and interventions hampers effective mental health support, particularly for diverse communities.
    • Negative healthcare experiences: Past negative encounters, especially concerning mental health stigma, deter individuals from seeking help within healthcare systems.
    • Financial barriers: Economic constraints in private and public healthcare settings hinder access to essential mental health services. 
    • Limited awareness and stigma: Insufficient awareness and prevailing stigma surrounding mental health issues lead to discrimination, discouraging individuals from seeking the help they need.

    Breaking the stigma globally

    Mental health stigma, pervasive in workplaces and society, is a significant global barrier to addressing mental health issues. This stigma often manifests as internalized shame and negative attitudes toward individuals with mental health conditions, or as socially constructed negative beliefs held collectively. 

    Stigma contributes to delayed treatment, increased morbidity, and a diminished quality of life for those experiencing mental health challenges. 

    Globally, the experience of stigma is widespread. For example, 80% of individuals diagnosed with conditions like schizophrenia or major depressive disorder reported discrimination in clinical settings across the globe.  

    Addressing stigma in the workplace

    A 2016 meta-analysis examining anti-stigma campaigns revealed the effectiveness of evidence-based interventions in reducing mental health stigma across diverse cultures. 

    These proven approaches significantly impact workplace well-being, enabling employees to openly discuss mental health and seek help without fear. Workplace leaders can combat stigma by:

    • Ensuring accessible support: Making mental health support readily available to all employees. 
    • Promoting inclusive language: Using inclusive and non-stigmatizing language when addressing mental health topics at all organizational levels.
    • Consistent discussions: Encouraging ongoing conversations about mental health throughout the year, fostering a culture of openness and understanding.
    • Providing education: Offering mental health literacy and first aid training to empower all employees with necessary knowledge and skills.
    • Implementing policies: Enforcing non-discrimination and harassment policies that include mental health, ensuring a safe and respectful workplace environment.

    By taking these steps, workplaces can foster a supportive environment year-round, prioritizing the mental well-being of their employees.

    Strategies for keeping mental health in focus year-round

    The World Health Organization’s recent comprehensive report on mental health at work emphasizes considering mental health across three pivotal levels: organizational, managerial, and individual.

    To reduce barriers, combat stigma, encourage early intervention, and provide comprehensive mental health support to employees, organizations can adopt the following strategies:

    • Mental health training for managers 
    • Year-round workshops and training sessions
    • Leveraging Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
    • Inclusive awareness campaigns
    • Leadership advocacy

    Enable leadership advocacy

    Establishing a company culture where mental health is integrated into the organization’s fabric begins at the top.

    World Mental Health Day provides an excellent opportunity for leaders to share their own mental health journeys, fostering empathy and understanding. Such openness from leadership reduces stigma and creates a workplace where everyone feels valued and supported. Employees facing mental health challenges are more likely to seek help, knowing it’s a normal and supported part of the workplace.

    Empower wellness through communication

    Integrating mental health education, awareness campaigns, and leadership endorsement into regular employee communication channels is vital. Utilizing social media posts, employee resource groups, emails, and company events offers opportunities to spread messages about mental health awareness and actively contribute to de-stigmatization efforts.

    For example, C-suite leaders can champion mental health benefits and integrate discussions about mental health support into routine company communications, such as emails or company-wide addresses. 

    By consistently incorporating these conversations, employees receive a clear message that mental health is a serious focus for their organization and discussing it within the context of work is encouraged.

    Celebrate World Mental Health Day

    While it’s important to focus on mental health throughout the year, World Mental Health Day presents a unique opportunity to heighten awareness and underscore the significance of mental health within a company or organization.

    Here are some suggestions for celebrating and promoting mental health awareness, on WMHD and the days leading up to it:

    • Encourage workplace leaders to share their mental health journeys 
    • Create a supportive Slack channel dedicated to employee wellbeing
    • Invite a speaker to discuss mental health 
    • Host mindfulness activities, such as a guided group meditation—online or in-person
    • Promote your company’s global mental health benefits
    • Encourage employee mental health breaks
    • Offer mental health days—and/or consider making WMHD a paid holiday

    Most importantly, take action

    As we celebrate World Mental Health Day, and contemplate the ongoing progress needed to address the mental health needs of every individual as a fundamental human right, it’s crucial to acknowledge the central role work plays in well-being.

    Work environments significantly influence mental health, making the workplace a catalyst for positive change in mental well-being. This World Mental Health Day, underscore the importance of mental health through advocacy, education, mental health benefits, and supporting global mental health organizations.

    Join our upcoming webinar to learn how to provide comprehensive mental health benefits globally, ensuring timely access and tailored solutions.

    About the Author
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    Jess Maynard

    Jess is a seasoned writer who has completed graduate work in women’s studies. She also works at a domestic violence shelter facilitating support groups for children and teens. Jess follows her curiosity devoutly and is committed to using her accumulated knowledge and life experiences to articulate facets of being human.

    About the clinical reviewer
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