Employee mental health: a moral and economic imperative for organizations
There is no doubt that the world is going through a mental health crisis.
More than 615 million people worldwide, including 65 million Americans, live with a mental health problem and studies estimate that the impact of the pandemic could increase that number by 50%. Young people, especially women and the LGBT community, are particularly at risk.
As employers assess the future of their organizations, including how to meet new talent expectations, mental health support should come to the fore as a moral and business imperative, experts say.
During PRWeek’s PRDecoded virtual conference, Brian Offutt, Director of Innovation and Workforce Operations at Weber Shandwick, led a discussion with Lisa Licht, Marketing Advisor for Project Healthy Minds and Phillip Schermer, Founder and CEO of Project Healthy Minds, on the state of mental health health crisis, the impact of mental health on business and the role of organizations in accessing support.
A recent Weber Shandwick survey of American employees found that 58% are worried about their mental health. Most employees believe that their employers are a constructive force in solving major societal problems. While 83% cite mental health as a major issue, only a third of these employees somewhat agree that their employer provides resources to manage their mental health and well-being.
âYou have a younger generation, aging at work and demanding a new set of mental health obligations from their employers,â Schermer said. “What people my age are demanding today is a whole new agenda around mental health.”
That’s why Project Healthy Minds, inspired by the impact of Logic’s song featuring the suicide hotline number, strives to create user-friendly digital pathways to care. This includes partnering with public figures to reduce mental health stigma and help businesses scale up and care for the mental health of their people in the most effective way.
âI don’t think you can talk to a single person under 35 today who doesn’t say mental health is one of the most pressing issues they see, that they encounter, that his friends and family are confronted, âsays Schermer. The fact that 86% of Millennials and Gen Z say mental health is as important or more important to them than their physical health has profound implications. âIt changes for whom we decide to work, with whom we decide to consume and for whom we decide to vote. “
To continue reaching employees and customers, brands will need to play a role in advancing this issue.
âIn marketing, we’ve spent the last few years talking about the purpose of the brand and the importance that every business needs to focus on because social media has made it so that you can be canceled anytime,â said explained Licht. âWhat companies do to make the world a better place is essential. But they’re going to have to put their money where they say it is and really support their employees. You will see more and more brands communicating, like Cameo, Slack and Lululemon, what they do for their customers as well as their employees.
âHistorically, companies have done very little about mental health,â Schermer said. âMental health costs businesses a trillion dollars each year in lost productivity. The return on economic investment is therefore quite high. And the audience you serve, your own employees, is a key stakeholder. There is this really exciting opportunity for companies to take a stand, both internally and externally.
“If they don’t, they have to, and they just aren’t careful,” Licht added. “But inevitably, they must have a productive workforce to be successful in business.”
To do this, leaders will need to engage in honest conversations about mental health. âIt’s imperative that leaders talk about their own mental health journey and what they’re doing to stay healthy in all aspects, not just physically,â Licht said.
“I encourage you, even if you are not in a leadership role, not to underestimate the power of your own voice by sharing your own experience and leading with vulnerability, because what you find statistically is a quarter of the people in this room have at least some personal connection to the problem, âSchermer concluded.