Written by: Veronica “Roni” Jenkins, Consultant

The subject of mental health least talked about in certain cultures, but it is also least talked about in the workplace. With mental health, particularly depression, being diagnosed at higher rates, and seen more in women than men when studies were conducted on mental health in the workplace.

The reason we are seeing rising numbers of depression being diagnosed in career women are because they are predisposed to worrying more, there are higher expectations of women on and off the job, and let’s not forget the struggles some women face with life/work balance. Although women are more likely than men to reach out to friends and family for support, they are also more likely to suffer in silence due to not recognizing their signs and symptoms as depression and seeing them as only stressors caused by work and life factors. With juggling outside factors as mentioned earlier, women must position themselves mentally to meet the high demands of the job while having very little to no control over their job duties while also trying to compete with their male counterparts. Women are also least likely than men, to receive the social support in the workplace to perform their jobs when in top positions. While there are other factors to consider besides those mentioned, these stressors alone can weigh heavily on a woman mentally, thus leading some to exhibit certain signs and symptoms of depression.
One of the training I present to businesses is on the topic, “Mental Health in the Workplace.” During this training, business owners are often shocked to learn that 80% of employees fail to receive treatment because of the stigmas associated with mental illness, 56% of employees do not seek treatment because of fear their employers or co-workers will find out, and that depression is ranked as the leading diagnosed mental illness (women being diagnosed 10% more than men) in the workplace when compared to other health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.

This article isn’t to say that women can’t be at the top of her career and balance her work/life effectively without dealing with depression because they can. It’s up to employers to become more aware of how the workplace can have an impact on mental illness and work to make changes in an effort to produce better outcomes amongst their employees in the workplace. Below are some steps employers can begin to implement to help manage their employees’ mental health:

1. Promote Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
Employers can place a list of EAP’s in breakrooms so employees can have access. Employers can also send out a mass e-mail list of EAP providers they use which helps to eliminate uncomfortable feelings by allowing them to go through the list at their own discretion.

2. Train supervisors to recognize mental illness
It’s important for supervisors to be aware of mental illness, what it means, recognize signs and symptoms, and how to help an employee who is dealing with a mental illness.

3. Increase employee incentives
Google is considered one of the best places to work. It’s not just because of the excellent benefits they offer or other perks just for being an employee, but Google also offers forums for their employees. This gives employees the opportunity to share their concerns and ask questions. Another great thing they offer is allowing employees the opportunity to survey supervisors. These are great ideas to have in the workplace. It allows employees to feel as though they have a say in what’s going on in the workplace.
Is this a topic often discussed in your workplace? How do you think employees can benefit from having this topic encouraged more in their workplace?