May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it comes at a unique time in our history.
Following a year of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, discussions around mental health are happening more frequently around kitchen tables, board rooms and within circles of friends.
That’s because perhaps more of us than ever are experiencing symptoms of mental illness ourselves: In January 2021, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. That’s up from 1 in 10 before the pandemic began.
COVID-19 has thrust mental health into the spotlight and Iowa employers are in a position to continue the conversation. Data from Businessolver’s 2021 “State of Workplace Empathy” argues that employees today have larger expectations around mental health in the workplace, especially post-pandemic.
The latest data shows that 91% of human resources professionals and 88% of employees think organizations should be doing more to promote mental health. Workplace empathy, mental health benefits and programs have now become “table stakes” for many employees.
Employers have made headway in supporting mental health: 65% of employees surveyed believe their organization openly discusses the importance of mental health. However, nearly that many employees also believe that reaching out to HR or management about a mental health issue would negatively impact their job security.
Perhaps most staggering: 66% of employees, 75% of HR professionals, and 82% of CEOs perceive that employers will view someone with mental health issues as a “burden.”
What can employers do to move beyond lip service to create a genuinely empathetic and understanding culture where employees feel safe to seek the support and help they need — in 2021 while dealing with the ongoing pandemic, and beyond?
We must Make It OK.
Make it OK is a community campaign in Iowa to reduce stigma by starting conversations and increasing understanding about mental illness. Organizations can get involved by signing up as a Make It OK Registered Workplace at MakeItOK.org/Iowa.
Businessolver’s “2021 State of Workplace Empathy” suggests some ways that workplaces can immediately start to Make It OK:
We all have a role to play to normalize mental health and create more empathetic workplaces and communities. Together, we can reduce stigma and Make It OK.