Businessolver Blog

Conversations and Common Language: Addressing Mental Health at Work  

Conversations and Common Language: Addressing Mental Health at Work  
Posted on Tuesday, May 9, 2023 by Rae Shanahan

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and an opportunity for employers to adopt empathy, wellbeing, and safety into your culture.

Mental health has been a hot topic for several years now. Once taboo to bring up your struggles, especially in the workplace with colleagues and clients, people have become more open and vocal about their personal mental wellbeing experiences—in and outside of the workplace.   

Thanks to the younger generation of workers and the COVID-19 pandemic, overall wellness is having another renaissance as employees renew their call for more inclusive and diverse benefits and workplace cultures. Many employers are seeing the importance of both physical and mental health, encouraging people to speak openly about their thoughts, feelings, and wellbeing. 

Still, many people struggle with the stigma or might not know how to ask for help.  

Today’s HR professionals have been rocks of support these last few years for employees and C-level leaders alike. And the rates of mental health concerns are up 10 points in just one year, with 61% of HR pros feeling the toll. 

Empathetic cultures and benefits come together to bolster mental health. Benefits access and literacy make it easy to get therapy or medication, while managers connect employees to support and help prevent burnout. 

Vulnerability can ease mental health stigma. 

As leaders, we must be the first to start safe discussions about issues of stress, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Whether due to lack of training or hesitation about their public reputation, C-level leaders aren’t delivering the level of empathy that employees want and need in the fast-paced work environment.   

I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to talk about mental health at work—yes, including your own. I’ve shared my own personal stories with Solvers in hopes of making it just a little easier to take action and ask for help. 

There was a period of my life where it felt impossible to find even one positive thing at the end of the day. Thankfully, through counseling and medication, it no longer feels like I have this constant nagging negativity dragging me down. 

When we’re vulnerable with our own stories, it tells employees that we understand their struggles and believe they can overcome them.  

HR can help leaders create a judgement-free zone with common language.  

Though each manager might not share their own mental health story, in this day and age, each manager must be trained to have these big discussions. 

HR teams can provide leaders and employees alike with the vocabulary to tackle these emotional and deep subjects. It can be awkward to not know what to say, so a common language gives people a way to discuss mental health in a safe and productive way. For example, being able to communicate, “I’m at 30% right now.” 

Having vocabulary can ease the overwhelm when discussing personal topics. When loved ones pass or employees are feeling burnt-out, low days are inevitable. With empathetic work cultures, employees have the support to get up and keep trying to live their best life. 

Affordable and convenient, telehealth and employee assistance programs (EAPs) are great to point people to. Obviously benefits and employee resources play a crucial role in managing mental health; however, trained and empathetic leaders offer the safety and nudge for those stuck under a dark cloud to take that crucial first step towards health and wellbeing. 

Carrying less taboo, sleep can be a gateway conversation to helping employees address those underlying mental health concerns.