Every May, thousands of organizations and individuals around the country observe Mental Health Awareness Month — a time for us to recognize the essential role that mental health plays in our overall well being. And, given the important role that employment plays in one’s sense of wellness, it is also an opportune time for businesses both large and small to consider the payoffs of fostering a mental health friendly workplace.
According to the National Mental Health Association, an estimated 54 million Americans experience some form of mental disorder in a given year. As such, mental health is an inherent element in nearly every workplace that ties directly to a business’s disability policies and practices. And what exactly is the best approach to the intersection of mental health and work? Experienced employers will tell you it’s about promoting a flexible and inclusive work culture that meets the needs of all employees, including those with mental health disorders and other disabilities. Such strategies simply make good business sense, positively impacting the health of your workforce, as well as your bottom line.
Being a mental health friendly employer means valuing diversity and welcoming all qualified job applicants, including those with mental health impairments. It means offering programs that support employee health and wellness and work-life balance. And it means offering reasonable accommodations to employees with mental health impairments when necessary. Such practices can generate numerous advantages for a business, including greater productivity, reduced insurance costs and improved employee retention and morale.
The Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers a wealth of free tools and resources related to job accommodations for workers with mental health impairments. In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has developed a series of toolkits and reference guides designed to help top executives, human resources professionals and managers create a mental health friendly work environment. All of these resources can assist businesses in conveying the important message that they care about employees’ wellness needs — all year round.