Making Employee Mental Health a Priority

According to the American Psychological Association’s 2023 Work in America Survey, some 92 percent of respondents said it is important to them for their employer to provide support for employee mental health.

Walking the streets of New York City, I sometimes feel that I’m traversing an outdoor mental hospital. People angrily shout at no one in particular, while others are in a state of obvious emotional distress.

We also are seeing an increase in mental health challenges at work, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. The American Psychological Association recently released its 2023 Work in America Survey, conducted online by The Harris Poll among 2,515 employed adults nationwide between April 17 and April 27, 2023. Survey results show:

  • More than 1 in 5 workers (22 percent) said they have experienced harm to their mental health at work. And some 22 percent of workers said they experienced harassment at work in the last 12 months—compared with 14 percent in 2022.
  • By work type, those who work in customer/client/patient service jobs (31 percent) were more likely than manual laborers (23 percent) and office workers (22 percent) to report experiencing verbal abuse at work. On the flip side, approximately 1 in 10 (12 percent) manual laborers reported that someone within their organization displayed physical violence toward them vs. 1 in 20 office (5 percent) workers and customer/client/patient service workers.
  • Despite the challenges revealed by the survey, the data show there is improvement in workplace mental health support. The majority (77 percent) of workers reported being very (36 percent) or somewhat (41 percent) satisfied with the support for mental health and well-being they receive from their employers. More than half (59 percent) strongly (22 percent) or somewhat (37 percent) agreed that their employer regularly provides information about available mental health resources.
  • Most survey respondents (92 percent) indicated that it is very (57 percent) or somewhat (35 percent) important to them to work for an organization that values their emotional and psychological well-being. Some 92 percent said it is very (52 percent) or somewhat (40 percent) important to them for their employer to provide support for employee mental health.

Mental Health Services Covered by Insurance

I have a friend who has struggled with severe mental health issues, attempting (and coming close to) suicide two times. Years ago, she told me that her insurance only covered one visit to a psychologist per month. Fortunately, her parents were able to help, so she could have a weekly therapy visit.

The first point to evaluate to determine how well your organization safeguards mental health is to see what mental health services are covered by the health insurance plans available to employees. Can those in need of help get time with a psychologist or therapist as often as once a week? Or is just one visit per month covered? It also is important to see what percentage of the visit is covered. Does insurance only cover a small portion of the visit so that the employee is left paying at least $50 per session? A charge like that, even once per month, is too much for many people.

Training for Managers

The training managers receive is also important to evaluate. Are they taught about fair practices with employees, so workloads are manageable? For example, in new manager or leadership training, they should be taught how essential it is to give employees the ability to plan ahead. Sometimes this is not possible, but if employees can be told way in advance what they will have to complete and by when, it can give them a greater sense of control. That sense of control can make a person feel more secure and less anxious, reducing stress. Organized, advance planning also conveys respect to employees, letting them know their manager respects their time and lives. They want to give them a chance to get their work done in a way that’s easily doable for them.

Having a manager who knows what to look for in terms of potential problem behaviors also is helpful. Is there an employee who spends a huge chunk of the day traveling from workstation to workstation? They may just be lazy, or they may be in need of an ear to listen to their problems and offer ideas for solutions.

Is the mental health of employees a priority in your organization? If so, what do you do to safeguard your employees’ mental health?