Recap: A Verywell Mind Webinar—Mental Health in the Workplace

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It should go without saying by now that taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health. Emotional wellbeing can severely impact your livelihood, yet research shows there are many areas where employees still don’t feel like their mental health is supported at work.

Both employers and employees don’t know how to approach the topic, don’t know what to say or what not to say, and just don’t feel like they have the tools to handle mental health issues.

That's why on Thursday, May 19th, 2022 for the Verywell Mind Webinar: Mental Health in the Workplace, Verywell Mind's Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin spoke to a panel of experts about strategies to support mental health in the workplace. Julian Lagoy, MD, Minaa B., LMSW, Melissa Doman, MA, and Naomi Torres-Mackie, PhD shared insights on a variety of topics, from requesting mental health days, to how leaders can foster an environment that is compassionate towards mental health issues.

In case you missed it, here are some of the most important takeaways from their discussion that will hopefully help you on your quest for better mental health at work.


Mental Health in the Workplace Webinar by Verywell Mind

Julian Lagoy, MD, Psychiatrist at Mindpath Health

What are the pluses and minuses of sharing your mental health issue at work? Julian Lagoy, MD, talks about the pros and cons, as well as things you should consider if you’re on the fence about sharing your issues in the workplace.

Disclosing a Mental Health Issue at Work

  • Talking about your mental health issue to someone at work can help you get the benefits and support you need. This help could include extra vacation days or mental health days to take care of yourself.
  • If your workplace is not supportive of mental health, being stigmatized could be a risk when you share your issues. Being the subject of gossip can also be difficult to take and is something to consider.
  • If you’re on the fence about sharing, give a lot of thought to how much you want to divulge. Also, remember you do have rights. “They cannot fire you or refuse to hire you if you have a mental illness,” Dr. Lagoy notes.
  • Talk to the person at work who you are closest to; someone who you trust. That person is likely to be more accepting and supportive.

Minaa B. LMSW, Corporate Wellness Coach

You may want to speak up at work about mental health care, for yourself or someone else. But you don’t feel like you can. Minaa B., LMSW, is a corporate wellness coach and member of Wondermind’s Mental Health Advisory Committee.

She discusses what gets in the way of you speaking up at work about mental health, feeling safe in that space, and the responsibilities of employees and employers regarding mental health.

Obstacles and Solutions

  • When you don’t feel secure in your workspace, it's an obstacle to bringing up the topic of mental health. “I think the number one thing is a lack of safety and a lack of community care in the work environment,” Minaa notes.
  • Creating a safe environment for employees is key. Being a person who is compassionate and approachable in matters outside of mental health goes a long way in fostering a caring workspace.
  • Companies should consider asking employees to complete workplace well-being surveys and personal well-being surveys. Taking the temperature of how the organization handles mental health, and how employees are feeling mentally, shows the care and concern of leadership. Also, encourage employees to take their paid time off (PTO) and sick leave. You can even put your PTO days in your email signature, so people know when you are not available.
  • As an employee, do your part to take care of your mental health. Take advantage of resources given by the company.

Melissa Doman, MA, Organizational Psychologist

Understanding the importance of speaking up about mental health at work is one thing; knowing how to do it is another. Melissa Doman, MA, is an organizational psychologist and author of "Yes, You Can Talk About Mental Health at Work (Here's Why and How to Do It Really Well)".

She offers insight on striking up that all-important mental health conversation at work, and common mistakes in addressing mental health concerns.

How and When to Talk About Mental Health at Work

  • When talking about mental health in the workplace, don’t tiptoe around it, or use other phrases to talk about it. Call mental health what it is — mental health. “It is the health status of … your brain, and it doesn’t need to be called anything else,” Dorman notes. “It’s not a dirty word, and neither is mental illness,” she adds.
  • Keep it professional. Although you are discussing something that can be personal, the talk is taking place within the context of the workplace. Strike a balance between being open, and oversharing.
  •  As a manager or colleague, when someone comes to you with their mental health concerns, establish your boundaries. Be kind and compassionate in implementing boundaries, so the person doesn’t feel you are rejecting them.
  • Take advantage of resources available to you to help improve your mental health. While you may share with someone at work, a therapist outside of the workplace can really provide the tools you need.

Naomi Torres-Mackie, PhD, Clinical Psychologist

Employers and employees have a number of ways that they can deal with mental health issues in the work environment. Naomi Torres-Mackie, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital and head of research at the Mental Health Coalition, offers ways to fight mental health stigma. She also discusses seeking out workplace benefits, and ideas to encourage employees to take advantage of those benefits.

Creative Ways to Address Workplace Mental Health

  • The best way to start addressing mental health in the workplace is to talk about it. “I think conversation is one of the best anecdotes to stigma around mental health, especially stigma around mental health in workplace,” Dr. Torres-Mackie notes.
  • If you are in leadership, recognize the importance of you modeling good mental health care, and shifting attitudes about mental health to those of acceptance and support.
  • Companies can offer a number of benefits for employees to work on their mental health, from company-wide time off, to a mindfulness space, to incorporating time in the workday for everyone to take a mental health break.
  • If employers place time for mental health in the corporate calendar, then everyone takes it. As a result, the time is less stigmatized, and potentially more attractive to all employees.

Naomi Torres-Mackie, PhD

I think conversation is one of the best anecdotes to stigma around mental health, especially stigma around mental health in workplace.

— Naomi Torres-Mackie, PhD

Understanding how to address mental health care in the workplace is critical. When bosses and employees work together to foster an atmosphere of openness, respect, and compassion, it creates a safe space. Each person has a part to play. Taking the time to build an environment that normalizes mental health care may be just the open door that someone needs.

“Remember that self-care is a prevention strategy; it is not a crisis response,” Minaa concludes.

1 Source
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  1. Greenwood K, Anas J. It’s a new era for mental health at work. Harvard Business Review. Published online October 4, 2021.