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Employees Say Work is Not a Safe Environment for Mental Illness

In a Mental Health America survey of 5,000 employees across 17 industries, the majority — 56 percent — disagreed when asked if they thought their employers provided a safe and welcoming environment for employees who live with mental illnesses. 

This finding comes as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a profound negative impact on the mental health of many Americans. The CDC found the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was three times what it was in 2019 and the prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times what it was in 2019.

Unspoken struggle

In addition this, the American Psychological Association found one in four essential workers were diagnosed with a mental health disorder during the pandemic. 

Now, Americans living with these new conditions or struggling with mental health concerns have returned to workplaces that they do not perceive as supportive environments for those with mental illness.

“It’s concerning that at a time when the need for a supportive mental health environment is so great, employees don’t feel their workplaces are providing that,” said Schroeder Stribling, President and CEO of Mental Health America, “We also found that two in five employees didn’t know what resources their employer had if they needed emotional support. That needs to change. Everyone should know how to get help when they need it.” 

The survey produced these findings across different industries and company sizes, for both remote and in-person workers. However, three industries showed particularly poor numbers — automotive, food and beverage, and retail.

A path forward

While Stribling says the survey’s findings are troubling, she also says the results provide an opportunity for employers to better understand the issues in their work environments and think about what changes can be made.

“This is a chance for employers to take a hard look at how friendly their workplaces are to the many Americans living with mental health conditions. And for the employers who recognize they need to make a change, we’re willing to work with them to identify areas for improvement,” Stribling said. 

In 2019, Mental Health America created the Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health, a certification program to recognize employers who are committed to creating mentally healthy workplaces. The program not only recognizes excellent workplaces but also educates companies about what they need to do in order to create workplaces of mental health excellence.

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