Let’s dispel some myths around mental health support and employee privacy in the workplace.
I am a lifelong extrovert and empath, and career-long communicator. As you might expect, talking to people all day every day is my jam—especially about the important things, including their mental health and well-being.
This National Mental Health Awareness Month, we find ourselves yet again fighting to break the stigma around discussing mental health at all, let alone in the workplace. That work starts with knocking down myths and misconceptions around what’s okay—and what’s a little gray—from a legal and moral perspective.
In our latest Brews with Bruce takeover, I talked to two of the industry’s most knowledgeable experts on how to help leaders be compassionately compliant in workplace conversations about mental health: Allison Wallace, Businessolver’s Chief Legal Officer; and Jessica Edwards, National Director of Strategic Partnerships at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Basically, it’s 30 minutes of me asking (for a friend):
What is a manager’s role when supporting employee mental health?
Everyone has their own method and comfort level around communication, and that extends to talking about mental health. When employees reach out for support, Allison and Jessica said the best role a manager can adopt is to be an active listener and a resource.
That might mean reaching out to your human resource partners for help understanding the resources available to employees or for support in directing an employee to the right resources for their needs. And while an expectation of privacy exists when an employee confides in a manager or HR professional about a mental health issue, managers can (and should) seek out guidance from their HR team if they feel out of their depth in getting an employee the support, resources, or even treatment they may need.
The workplace is rife with mental health myths about privacy and protection
Businessolver’s 2022 State of Workplace Empathy data reveals that 1 in 2 employees experienced a mental health issue in the past year, but less than half (41%) reached out at work for help. Worse, 59% of employees believe reaching out to a manager or HR about their mental health could negatively impact their job security and 66% believe that a prospective employer would rescind a job offer if a mental health issue was disclosed during an interview.
This data highlights a troubling trend showing how mental health in the workplace is largely viewed through a lens of stigma, shame, and fear. As employers work to dismantle myths and misconceptions, Allison and Jessica advise top-down transparency and role-modeling around taking breaks from work for mental health reasons, and fostering an open-door strategy so that employees feel safe opening up.
Hear more from Jessica and Allison about what an active support role looks like and how to set healthy boundaries while supporting mental health in the workplace by watching our Brews with Bruce takeover.