Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 was October 3rd- 9th. Dedicating only one week out of the year to mental health awareness is essentially the same as brushing your teeth for only a week out of the year. While the message and sentiment of Mental Health Week is important and well intended, the reality is that wellness is an effort, and needs consistent and ongoing practice.
Just recently, the American Psychological Association released the Well-Being Survey for the year 2021, and the results are striking. In a variety of different professions that were examined, 40% of individuals reported feelings of emotional exhaustion and 43% reported a mental health related issue prevented them from effectively performing at work. Additionally, 3 in 5 employees reported feeling unmotivated, tired and disinterested in work. Struggling mental health does not only impact the individual’s personal life, but work-related stress has also been found to impact workers performance and productivity on the job.
Clearly, the issue at hand and these statistics that lay out the prevalence of these challenges warrant more than a single week dedicated. Long story short, we need more to support the mental and physical well being of everyone in our society. More from companies and their leaders, more from people who make higher-up decisions, and more work to destigmatize mental health and understand that we are all simply human, after all.
Among some of the admiral leaders who have spoken out to call for more to be done in the workplace, American Psychological Association’s CEO Dr. Arthur Evans, suggested companies reexamine the workplace, and take some of the lessons learned in the pandemic that shed light on the importance of mental health.
Additionally, it is not only employees who are struggling, but also those in senior level and management positions are also experiencing mental health challenges. This furthers the argument that the entire landscape of the workplace needs to adapt and change to fit the growing need for mental health support.
In general, real change must occur at a systemic level, and not just in providing an email acknowledging mental health awareness week. Mental health days and posts about mental health week are great, but making a real change and actively providing mental health support in the workplace can help employees feel supported and build resilience. According to the American Psychological Association’s Well-being 2021 Survey report, 87% of workers reported they would feel less psychological strain if their employers took real action to address the workers’ real needs and concerns.
Building resiliency, managing stress, and prioritizing can look different for every person and every workplace. Each company, office and work environment will need a unique service that meets their needs so that each workplace can ideally become a center of health, as well as productivity or service.
Written by Jaclyn Gordon