What's Wrong with Mental Health Awareness Month?

The month of May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month in order to help to raise awareness, reduce the stigma, and educate the public about mental illness. While it has been around for over 70 years, it has never been as relevant as it is now.  The world is still staggering from a pandemic that has resulted in nearly one million deaths in Canada and the United States. And amid all of the chaos, disruption and trauma is the pervasive presence of mental health challenges at work.

While these challenges have increased and intensified since the pandemic, the life/work stress factors were out of balance even before covid arrived.

Recent U.S. studies of mental health issues in the workplace are alarming:

  • Employees in unhealthy workplaces are more likely to seek out other professional opportunities. Fifty-six percent (56%) of all surveyed employees spent time looking for a new position, compared to forty percent (40%) in 2018. (report)
  • Eighty percent (80%) of employees agreed that the stress from work affects their relationships with friends, family, and coworkers and seventy-one percent (71%) of employees found it difficult to concentrate at work, compared to sixty-five percent (65%) in 2021 and forty-six percent (46%) in 2018. (report)
  • Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Millennials (50% in 2019) and eighty-one percent (81%) of Gen Z-ers (75% in 2019) have left roles for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily, compared with fifty percent (50%) of respondents overall (34% in 2019). Ninety-one percent (91%) of respondents believed that a company’s culture should support mental health, (up from 86% in 2019). (article)
But it doesn’t need to be like this. The same report indicates that positive workplace mental health requires investment (i.e. time, intention, and action) from all levels of an organization, including executive leadership, management, and employees.

In Canada the statistics are just as grim. Workplace Health Canada states that seventy percent (70%) of Canada’s workplaces don’t have a mental health strategy — this is despite the obvious need for one and the evidence demonstrating the positive return on investment in workplace mental health. (site)

As demonstrated in this Mental Health America survey — and so many other research findings — the differences in workers’ mental health in healthy versus unhealthy workplaces are shocking.  Companies that make the effort to invest in mental health initiatives at work – be it in wellness initiatives, training, culture, and more – can lower turnover by having engaged and productive employees. (report)

Although employers have responded with initiatives such as mental health days/weeks, four-day workweeks, and enhanced counseling benefits or apps, there is still much more that needs to happen. Employees need sustainable and mentally healthy workplaces, which requires a new paradigm of mental health support and workplace culture change. Until that happens, mental health issues will remain prominent.

Studies indicate a culture of connection is key — from healthy working relationships to meaningful interactions among teams. With such disparity in personal views on mandates and vaccines, our connection has been jeopardized even more than it was pre-pandemic. Employers need to provide organization-wide opportunities for safe connection and promote ongoing, deeper one-on-one conversations about these issues between managers and direct reports, as well as between colleagues.

The massive societal shifts currently happening have changed company cultures and employee perceptions around mental health. Although employers are starting to invest more, employees have rightfully increased their expectations. The future of workplace mental health demands cultural change — with more vulnerability, compassion, and sustainable ways of working.

So… while May is Mental Health Awareness month, our global mental health crisis in the workplace demands that we make it a top priority every month!

What is stopping you or your organization from taking steps to affect real change?  Steps such as:

  • Introducing more individualized and collective ongoing support?  
  • Providing more knowledge and evidence-based training?
  • Adopting a more inclusive and compassionate culture.  
  • Or how about developing a culture of empathy and psychological safety throughout?  

The need is there – which is why we have recently launched a Certified Corporate Integrative Mental Health Coach Training Program to train and certify key individuals on cutting-edge, sustainable techniques who can then provide non-stigmatized and normalized care resulting in lasting relief for employees who are struggling with mental health issues.

To learn more about how you can become an integrative mental health coach or bring this training into your organization, request our CIHC information packet (below) or email us at: training@nickersoninstitute.com


It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work

Quick Facts and Statistics About Mental Health

Mind the Workplace | 2022 Report

Survey: 40% of Employees Are Thinking of Quitting Their Jobs

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Article written by:

Dr. Nickerson's professional experience as a psychologist and personal passion for developing the mind-body-spirit connection have fueled her success and devotion to training individuals and organizations to foster whole wellness.