Ways to help employees struggling with mental health

The suicide rate among the working age population in the United States rose by 34 percent from 2000 to 2016, according to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

Since many adults spend a large portion of their time at work, the CDC has identified the workplace as one of the most important places for suicide prevention efforts.

You may have employees who are struggling with their mental health. Offering assistance and education about mental health can help them get back to a healthy place.

Utilize an employee assistance program

One of the best ways to help employees with mental health issues is to offer an employee assistance program (EAP). Through an employee assistance program, your employees can access services to assist with mental and emotional well-being. Employee assistance programs also offer manager’s assistance lines, which leaders and supervisors can access for guidance when one of their employees is experiencing difficulties.

Sometimes you can also arrange educational sessions at your workplace about mental health through your employee assistance program. It’s important to make those sessions as acceptable and approachable as possible. Many people who experience trouble with mental health don’t want their peers to know, so this may hold them back from attending.

If you have an injured worker who is struggling, SFM offers services similar to those offered by an employee assistance program for injured workers. Our Injured Worker and Family Assistance Program, offers free counseling and other resources to workers on topics such as resiliency, emotional wellness and more.

Teach your leaders to watch for signs

When people are struggling with mental illness, there are often changes in their behavior. Teach the managers and supervisors at your company to watch their employees for sudden changes. Things to watch for include:

  • Changes in appearance
  • Lack of engagement or passion
  • Less involvement with the team
  • Showing up late or leaving early
  • Increased absences
  • Struggling to get work done

Not all signs will be obvious. People with mental illness often go through a lot of isolation and shame. They feel like they can’t open up about their difficulties or that it’s something they should figure out how to deal with on their own. As a result, they can be very high functioning and not show signs of struggle. However, if your company works to create an environment where leaders show care and compassion for their employees, people who are going through hard times will feel more comfortable approaching their supervisors to ask for help.

Even if employees aren’t willing to speak up to a leader, they might share with a coworker. Encourage all your employees to speak up if they know someone is struggling. Receiving care and compassion from others can go a long way toward helping someone feel better.

Other resources

There are many organizations dedicated to mental health education and suicide prevention. Websites include:

All of these websites offer resources that you can use to help your employees. It also helps to make these websites and resources easily and discreetly available to anyone who may be seeking help, but is unwilling to speak up about it.

If you have a benefits broker, they can also offer resources and provide human resources guidance.

At some point, everyone goes through a hard time that takes a toll on their well-being, and your employees are no exception. Having resources ready for when those hard times hit can really make a difference.

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