Supporting Individuals with Serious Mental Illness in the Workplace

A supplement to the publication Recommendations to Create a Supportive Workplace for Individuals with Mental Health Conditions, this webinar discusses ways employers can create a supportive workplace culture and develop policies to enhance that culture. A supportive and accommodating workplace is not only beneficial for employees with mental health issues—practices and policies responsive to mental health needs improve workplace morale and productivity.

Serious mental illness (SMI) is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that impairs the ability of an individual to function and perform tasks or life activities. Examples of SMI are bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression. Employment is a crucial part of mental health recovery and is associated with a lower risk of psychiatric hospitalization. Despite this, in 2017, two-thirds of adults in the United States with SMI did not have full-time employment as a result of discrimination or inability to maintain steady employment. Employers often do not have accommodations for the needs and challenges of people with mental illness.

Failing to create a supportive workplace increases costs in numerous areas for employers. Absences and poor morale decrease the productivity of employees and increase stress on team members. Training new employees, even if they are temporary, is costly and time-consuming. Employers and their employees benefit when creating a supportive workplace. A workplace must address stigma within its culture and employees through training for supervisors. Supervisors are then better prepared to identify individuals showing signs of mental health challenges that may need reasonable accommodations. Policies and procedures for individuals with SMI should they need a leave of absence or experience a crisis can also serve as a procedure standard that can be applied more broadly as needed. These measures are best backed by access to mental health services that are covered by the company’s insurance plan. Workplaces should also ensure employees have access to mental health services and promote awareness of the Employee Assistance Program.

This resource was first shared in 2018.

(Presentation, YouTube)

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