Mental Health Awareness Month 2023

May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. It is a time to raise awareness about mental health, reduce stigma, and promote mental wellness. Mental health is a critical component of overall health and well-being, and it is essential to prioritize mental health in our daily lives.

Mental illness affects millions of people globally, and it is more common than we might think. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness in a given year. Additionally, one in six youth aged 6 to 17 in the United States experiences a mental health disorder each year.

Mental health issues can range from mild to severe, and they can have a significant impact on a person's life, including their relationships, work, and daily activities. During the OurOffice Future of Work Roundtable, this topic sparked an in-depth discussion. A Benefits Manager for a large logistics company shared that mental health impacts employee wellness and their outcomes at work as a result. They have partnered with several apps that offer virtual mental health services and games to help employees in distress.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health across the world. Here are some key changes in mental health statistics that have been observed since COVID-19.

1. Increased Anxiety and Depression

According to a survey by the CDC in June 2020, around 41% of respondents reported anxiety or depression symptoms, compared to 11% in 2019. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation confirms that the percentage of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety and/or depression increased from 11% in 2019 to 36.5% in July 2020.

2. Increased Demand for Mental Health Services

The demand for mental health services has increased significantly since the pandemic began.

Mental health hotlines have reported a surge in calls, and many mental health professionals have reported an increase in demand for their services.

3. Increased Burnout

The pandemic has also led to an increase in burnout among healthcare workers and other essential workers. These workers have faced unprecedented challenges and have been under immense pressure to care for patients while navigating the risks of contracting the virus themselves.

Impacts on the Workplace

The changes in mental health statistics highlight the significant impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on mental health worldwide.

Last year, SHRM reported 43% of employers have seen a spike in reasonable accommodation requests related to mental health since the coronavirus pandemic started. In addition, mental illness has a significant cost for employers, not just in medical claims but also in absenteeism, turnover, and presenteeism.

In the Fisher Phillips survey, 51 percent of employers said they have fielded reports of burnout or mental fatigue, while 46 percent said they faced higher turnover rates and 34 percent said they faced higher absenteeism rates during the last two years.

These impacts in the workplace certainly warrant special leadership attention, and specific actions by organizations of all sizes.

Actions Organizations Can Take to Address Mental Health

The statistics regarding impacts on the workplace resonated with the leaders during the Future of Work Roundtable as they see some of the challenges employees are facing firsthand.

One of the Roundtable members indicated that she estimates over 30% of employees at her organization are on some type of antidepressant or anxiety medication. “We know the need is there. We use the data we receive from our insurance broker to understand what is going on around our organization. Our team works hard to find persons who may be in need and connect them to resources in their local communities to support them.” To support this effort, their team has trained managers on what to look out for when an employee may need mental health resources.

Managers are always seen as closest to the pulse of their employees' needs and challenges. A Program Manager at a mid-size energy company, shared how critical it is for people leaders to take charge in checking in on the wellbeing of their employees, “using proactive restorative practices - encouraging all people leaders to start every meeting with an icebreaker that encourages building cultural awareness, and creating safe spaces within teams to help build empathy and awareness about challenges others may be facing.”

Lastly, it is important for employees to know what benefits are available to them. Rob, Program Manager for a data analytics firm, shared that they use specific Slack channels to share benefits updates/information with employees, hold benefits meetings when changes are occurring with coverage, and use signages in offices, warehouses, and break rooms encouraging sharing benefits updates and encouraging healthy habits.

Mental health awareness month serves as a reminder that mental health is just as important as physical health. It is time to break the stigma surrounding mental illness and support those who may be struggling with mental health issues. Let us work together to create a world where mental health is prioritized, and everyone has access to the care and support they need.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, do not hesitate to seek help. You can contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for support and resources. Remember, you are not alone.

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