May is a time of renewal and new growth. Nowhere is this more evident than on the farms and fields of Nebraska, as another growing season begins. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, which you may be surprised to learn has been observed since 1949. It was established by the National Alliance on Mental Illness to fight stigma, educate the public and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families. It can be argued that at no time has the need been greater than now for raising awareness about mental health, both inside and outside the workplace.

The data compiled by the Pew Charitable Trusts indicates that more than 47,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States, making it the 12the leading cause of death in the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a 25% increase in mental health disorders worldwide, with increases being highest among young people and women. According to the WHO, this increase has coincided with severe disruptions to mental health services, leaving huge gaps in care for those who need it most. This included services for mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders. Many countries have also reported major disruptions to vital mental health services, such as suicide prevention. While access to mental health care and services has improved by 2021, too many people remain unable to get the care and support they need for pre-existing and newly developing mental health conditions.

For decades, companies have been reluctant to address or even acknowledge mental health. Fortunately, that is changing as education and awareness increases around this vital aspect of our overall health and well-being. Below, we look at why supporting mental health in our families, workplaces and communities is good for business, and how business owners and their teams can get involved.

Raising the baseline

At Carson Group, we rolled out our “Raise the Baseline” initiative in December 2021, with a mental wellness roundtable at our new offices in Omaha. The panel included executives, stakeholders and two doctors who discussed the importance of mental health in our daily lives, new breakthroughs in treatments and ways to access help and resources.

We have also partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) for an initiative promoting monthly “Mind-Body-Soul” workplace campaigns. This includes a “Talk Saves Lives” workshop, which showcases the latest research on suicide prevention and the things we can do in our communities to help save lives. We also participated in “Out of Darkness” local campus events, which are challenging endurance walks and AFSP’s flagship fundraising event. We’ve hosted a ‘Beyond Sad’ presentation to help parents and caregivers recognize the signs that young people are at risk and when to intervene. This month we are hosting a Mental Health Awareness Town Hall. This is an open discussion spanning the spectrum of mental health and providing resources for stakeholders to help themselves and others.

While it is extremely important to help raise awareness in the workplace, it is also important to help with other types of support. One of the ways we do this is by providing wellness funds to stakeholders that can be used for mental health resources such as therapy, counseling, apps, books, and more.

How supporting wellbeing pays off for businesses

Business owners are often reluctant to spend money on programs that don’t have a clear return. While there are no actual costs associated with administering programs or events, each hour of downtime, where employees are engaged outside of their immediate work duties, has an associated cost to the company. However, the real question may be: Can you afford not to support mental health in the workplace? The WHO estimates that depression and anxiety alone cost the global economy $1 trillion a year in lost productivity. According to a Harris Poll76% of American workers struggle with a mental health issue and about 42% answered “yes” when asked if they had ever been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

A round table of CEOs study commissioned by the American Heart Association found that work, money and the future of the nation were the top three causes of stress among survey respondents. As major contributors to depression and anxiety, stress and mental illness are also considered risk factors for a number of serious physical health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. This can manifest in many ways in the workplace, including higher absenteeism and turnover rates, which are costly for employers.

Besides the desire to make sure team members have access to all the important health resources they might need, it turns out that supporting mental health initiatives in the workplace is actually good for your results. A recent WHO-led study study estimated that for every dollar allocated to scaling up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. Moreover, the American Psychiatric Association (AMA) claims that 80% of workers who have received treatment for a mental illness report that their job satisfaction and productivity have increased. According to the AMA, when employees receive effective treatment for mental illnesses, the result is reduced total medical costs, increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and decreased disability costs. The Bottom Line: Investing in a mentally healthy workforce is good for business.

To learn more about mental health resources for business owners and individuals, visit the sites below:

Mental Health America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Institutes of Mental Health

Addiction and Mental Health Services Administration

American Psychiatric Association

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

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