Mental Health Awareness Month

Topics: Small Business

Summary: May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and employee mental health has been top of mind for employers since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Find out why focusing on whole-person wellness is key to a successful workers’ compensation program, and learn what employers can do to support their employees’ mental health throughout the year.

What is Mental Health Month?

Mental Health Month, or Mental Health Awareness Month, was established by Mental Health America (MHA) in 1949 to increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness, and to celebrate recovery from mental illness. Mental Health Awareness Month is celebrated every May with the support of organizations like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The 2021 theme is “You Are Not Alone,” promoting the idea that it’s okay not to be okay, and to seek connections with others in healthy ways.

Tremendous strides have been made over the last 20 years to improve the outlook of those affected by mental illnesses and promote acceptance and support of those with mental health conditions. MHA continues to educate the masses about mental illness and provide access to treatments that can lead to a fulfilling life.

Workers and Mental Health during COVID-19

Millions of Americans suffer from mental health conditions. In fact, nearly one in five adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year, and 46% of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lives.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, reports of anxiety, depression and substance abuse have been on the rise. It is imperative employers continue to make their workers’ mental health a top priority, especially as the country strives to return to a new normal.

MHA released their Mind the Workplace 2021 Report to help employers understand the challenges their employees faced throughout the pandemic. The report revealed workers experienced a high level of stress throughout 2020, worrying about both their physical and mental health, their financial well-being, and feeling a lack of support from their employers. Many felt burned out and emotionally drained from their responsibilities, whether they were working onsite or remotely.

The report also stated that nearly 9 in 10 employees say their workplace stress affects their mental health. Nearly 3 in 5 employees do not feel their employers provide a safe environment for those suffering from mental illness.

mental health month facts

Mental Health and Workers’ Compensation: Focusing on Whole-Person Wellness

While employees’ mental health has been top of mind due to COVID-19, it’s also important to consider factors other than the pandemic. For example, following a workplace accident, it’s common for injured workers to experience depression. One group of researchers found that employees injured at work were more likely to become depressed than those injured outside of work. Worries about finances, losing their normal routine and returning to work successfully were cited as top reasons for injured workers’ depression.

For a long time, employers were focused solely on treating the visible injuries an employee suffered in a workplace accident. However, studies have shown that even minor injuries can have a negative impact on mental health, creating feelings of anxiety and depression even in a mentally stable person. These feelings do not necessarily go away once the employee is healed physically, either, as the individual may not be mentally ready to return to work. Feeling unprepared can lead to even more stress, and worse, possible re-injury.

Before the start of the pandemic, many employers were beginning to implement communication strategies with injured workers to help focus on all aspects of their health and recovery. In a recent article in Risk & Insurance, AmTrust’s Melissa Burke, pharmacist and head of managed clinical care, suggested, “If we identify that an injured employee has the potential to decompensate or is stressed, we’re engaging our nurses early on.” This means ensuring the injured worker has access to additional resources available through the employer, such as their employee assistance program (EAP) or telehealth behavioral services.

Workers’ compensation programs have shifted to consider the injured worker’s physical health, mental health and social environments when creating individualized treatment plans. This focus on whole-person wellness helps ensure a successful return to the workplace.

Mental Health Support for Employees

mental health support for employees

MHA discussed some of the things employers can do to help improve employee mental health at the workplace, which include:
  • Ensure supervisors understand how to support employees emotionally. When employees feel they can discuss stressful situations with their supervisors, the workplace becomes a healthier environment.
  • Provide resources for mental health support. A safe workplace is strongly associated with the amount of resources offered for emotional support, such as accessing insurance benefits or an EAP.
  • Take a closer look at workplace culture. Is leadership considering employee feedback on issues? Identify areas that could use improvement within the company culture, which should reflect the organization’s mission and values.
  • Watch for employee burnout. MHA’s Mind in the Workplace 2021 Report revealed that 99% of workers who feel emotionally drained by their work agree that workplace stress affects their mental health. Employers should understand the signs of burnout and offer flexibility as needed.
  • Remove the stigma of mental illness. No one should feel alone when struggling with mental health conditions. Employers should assess their mental health practices and work to create a welcoming environment for all employees, including for those living with certain mental health conditions.

Comprehensive Workers’ Compensation Coverage from AmTrust Financial

AmTrust Financial is one of the nation’s largest writers of all types of commercial insurance for small businesses. As a trusted partner since 1998, we understand and support small businesses as they begin to adapt to a post-pandemic workplace. Find out more about our small business insurance solutions by contacting us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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