3 Actions You Can Take to Address Mental Health: Strategies for Employers from WELCOA

At this time, there is an urgent need for workplaces to effectively address mental health and suicide crises. They are complex issues and involve a variety of factors. Try these strategies to become more informed and spread awareness during Mental Health Month in May.

Action 1: Develop proactive strategic plans that address mental health and suicide prevention to protect employees and company profits. According to the 2019 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey, just 22 percent of employers currently have or plan to implement programs to address opioid use and suicide prevention this year. While employers can continue to take a broad approach to well-being (ensuring support for physical, emotional, financial, and social well-being), mental health is a safety priority and not simply a wellness goal. Supporting employees’ mental health should be woven into the DNA of your organization—from the environment to policy and operations. According to a 2018 survey:

“Organizations with increased health engagement are focused on improving the employee experience by connecting the company’s culture and ultimately providing tools and resources that support employees when they need it most.”

Action 2: Complete a Culture and Risk Factor Checklist. You can use this checklist from a WELCOA contributor, Mettie Spiess (A World Without Suicide) to get insights into your company’s state of readiness. Use it to secure buy-in from your leaders for integrating mental health and stigma reducing efforts into existing employee engagement and safety initiatives. You can also use the adaptation of WELCOA’s Quick Culture Inventory in PRA’s Best Practices for Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace publication. There is a real cost to not effectively addressing mental health, and one thing we have all learned by watching organizations manage through this pandemic is that failure to act speaks more loudly than action—and can have more dire consequences.

Action 3: Educate yourself about suicide prevention. Here are a few myths about suicide and facts to dispel them.

Myth: If you talk about suicide and ask someone if they are suicidal you will encourage and trigger a suicide attempt.
Fact: Asking direct, caring questions about suicide will often minimize a person’s anxiety and act as a deterrent to suicidal behavior. It also shows that you care and want to help.

Myth: You cannot prevent someone from taking their life.
Fact: Unfortunately, there are those who will die by suicide even with outside intervention. However, the vast majority of people in this situation do not want to die; rather, they just want their pain to stop. If you can convince them to get help, a tragedy may be averted.

Myth: You must experience depression or psychosis to consider suicide.
Fact: Depression is often associated with suicidal feelings but not all persons who attempt or complete suicide have a diagnosable mental health condition.

Myth: Suicide happens without warning.
Fact: There are almost always warning signs. Common warning signs to look out for include alcohol and drug misuse, lack of a support network, sudden changes in behavior and/or dramatic mood changes, giving away prized possessions, and threats of suicide.

Tap into these WELCOA resources to help you discover how to build a mental health-friendly workplace. We recommend starting with the 4 F’s of Identifying and Managing Mental Health at Work. WELCOA is the nation’s most respected non-profit resource for building high-performing workplaces.

Located in Omaha, Nebraska, WELCOA has a 30-year history serving a wellness community of over 30,000 across the world.