- The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) introduced the Mental Health Toolkit, an online resource aimed to assist employers in understanding mental health issues, supporting workers with related conditions and cultivating a supportive work environment.
- DOL said that the toolkit also gives employers access to summaries of research on workplace mental health, examples of mental health programs set up by employers of various sizes and industries, and links to readily available resources employers can access to start their own initiatives. DOL developed the toolkit with the department's Office of Disability Employment Policy and the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion.
- "By some estimates, one in five American adults experiences a mental health condition each year and work plays an important role in their wellness," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Jennifer Sheehy stated in a news release. "Employers that understand the importance of providing a supportive environment that empowers these employees are doing what's right for their employees and for their businesses."
With strings of reports on how stress, burnout and mental health issues in general are causing problems for today's workers, employers are recognizing the need to build and maintain mentally healthful, productive work environments. DOL's toolkit may offer employers at least some of the knowledge and resources needed to do so.
According to a 2018 netQuote study, mental health issues are on the rise; of the more than 1,000 survey respondents, 41% were diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and 52% said they thought their mental health condition interfered with their work. In a recently released survey by CareerCast, 80% of employees rated their stress levels above seven on a 10-point scale — a significantly higher percentage of employees than those who gave a similar rating two years ago.
In a study released earlier this month, most employees (76%) said they were confident that their managers could recognize mental health issues in the workplace — but only 16% of HR professionals agreed. In fact, Rachel Shaw, principal consultant and president of Shaw HR Consulting, told attendees at a 2018 Disability Management Employer Coalition Annual Conference that when employees want to discuss their mental health issues at work, HR professionals don't know how to discuss or address the issue.
Nevertheless, employers have an obligation to address the issue and get it right, not just for the sake of employees, but for the health of their businesses, as well. The projected costs of not addressing mental health issues in the workplace is staggering; Shaw cited a study showing that the cumulative cost of mental disorders could reach $16.3 trillion globally between 2011 and 2030, an economic impact similar to cardiovascular diseases and higher than the costs of cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory illnesses.