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Breaking the Stigma: Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace

by FrankCrum on May 1, 2023

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when people across the globe come together to shine a light on mental health issues, reduce stigma, and promote emotional well-being. Mental health is a critical component of overall health and wellness, yet it remains an often overlooked and stigmatized issue. This month-long observance provides an opportunity to shed light on the importance of mental health and to encourage people to take action to support themselves and those around them who may be struggling.

Mental health can be a significant concern in the workplace, with many employees experiencing stress, burnout, and other mental health problems. In today's fast-paced and demanding work environments, it is more important than ever for employers to prioritize their employees’ mental health and create supportive workplace cultures that promote holistic wellness. In this article, we'll explore the impact of mental health on the workplace and discuss practical strategies employers can use to support their employees.

Is Mental Health a Concern in the Workplace?

A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that approximately 1 in 5 American adults experience some form of mental illness in a given year, which can impact their personal lives as well as their performance at work.

Many employees also experience stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges related to their jobs such as workload, job insecurity, long working hours, poor management, workplace bullying, and discrimination.

The American Psychological Association reports that workplace stress is the leading cause of stress for American adults, with 65% of employees reporting feeling stressed on the job. These challenges can have a negative impact on employee well-being, job satisfaction, and productivity.

Not only can a workplace negatively influence an employee’s mental health, but it can also be a place where seeking help or treatment is stigmatized. In a National Alliance on Mental Illness survey, 8 out of 10 employees reported that shame and stigma prevent them from seeking treatment for their mental health conditions.

In a survey conducted by SHRM, nearly half of all employees said they feel that their employer doesn't provide sufficient resources to support their mental health. Because mental health issues aren’t openly discussed, employers may not realize how their workforce and their business are impacted.

What is the Impact of Poor Mental Health in the Workplace?

Mental health can have a significant impact on the workplace, affecting both employees and the organization as a whole.

Here are some of the ways poor mental health can impact the workplace:

Employee well-being: Poor mental health can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout, which can impact employee well-being and quality of life. Employees may experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and sleep problems, which can affect their ability to perform their job duties effectively. According to a study by Harvard Medical School, workplace stress can lead to physical health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and musculoskeletal disorders.

Productivity: Mental health challenges can reduce employee productivity, impacting the quality and quantity of work completed. Employees may struggle to focus on tasks, have trouble making decisions, and take longer to complete assignments.

Absenteeism and presenteeism: Mental health challenges can lead to absenteeism, where employees take time off work due to their condition. In fact, a study by the Center for Workplace Mental Health found that depression is responsible for more than 200 million lost workdays each year in the United States. Additionally, mental health challenges can also result in presenteeism, when employees are physically present at work but are not fully engaged due to their mental health challenges, leading to reduced productivity and performance.

Turnover: Employees experiencing poor mental health may be more likely to leave their jobs, leading to higher turnover rates and increased recruitment and training costs for the organization.

Work environment: Mental health challenges can impact the work environment, leading to interpersonal conflicts, communication breakdowns, and poor morale among employees.

What Can Employers Do for the Mental Health of Their Employees?

Taking action to support the holistic wellness of employees is the right thing to do. But if that’s not enough, research by Deloitte found that companies can see an average return of $5.30 for every dollar spent on mental health initiatives in the workplace through improved productivity and reduced absenteeism.

As an employer, there are several things you can do to support the mental health of your employees:

1. Provide mental health resources: Employers can offer access to resources such as therapy, counseling, and support groups. Many health insurance programs include mental health resources, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are a great alternative.

2. Create a supportive workplace culture: Employers can foster a workplace culture that prioritizes employee well-being, promotes work-life balance, and encourages open communication about mental health. This can include offering flexible work arrangements, recognizing and celebrating employee achievements, and promoting a positive work environment.

3. Offer mental health training: Employers can provide training for managers and supervisors to help them recognize signs of mental health issues in employees and provide support and resources.

4. Break the stigma: Employers can take steps to reduce the stigma around mental health in the workplace by promoting mental health awareness and education, encouraging open and non-judgmental communication, and providing a safe and supportive environment for employees to seek help.

5. Review policies and practices: Employers can review their policies and practices to ensure they support employee mental health. For example, they can review workload and time-off policies to ensure they are practical and provide opportunities for rest and recovery. Employers should also confirm that employees are taking advantage of their time-off policies. 

As we move forward this Mental Health Awareness Month and beyond, remember that mental health is a critical issue in the workplace, impacting employee well-being, productivity, and job satisfaction. By providing resources, fostering a supportive work environment, offering training, reducing stigma, and implementing thoughtful strategies, employers can support their employees’ mental health and retain a healthier workforce.


FrankCrum is a professional employer organization (PEO), founded in 1981 dedicated to helping business owners boost HR capabilities and broaden convenient services and benefits to employees. The origin of FrankCrum dates back to 1981, when Frank W. Crum, Jr. and his father, Frank Crum, Sr., founded the Great American Temporary Service. With a passion for helping small business owners succeed, the company has evolved and grown over several decades.