Employee Mental Health
Let’s Not Keep Employee Mental Health In Check!
In one of the worksite wellness social media groups I belong to a group member recently posted a series of tips group members who work from home can use to keep their mental health in check. I could not disagree more with her assertion.
If you view mental health as only being about mental illness, then of course it makes sense to keep mental illness in check. But mental health is about so much more than just mental illness. Only addressing mental illness in the workplace is actually a reactive approach to employee mental health and therefore only part of the solution to the issue of employee mental health.
It is important to keep in mind that workplace mental health encompasses more than just addressing mental illness. Workplace mental health actually encompasses three areas: mental illness, psychological or mental distress and mental wellness. While it is important to react to mental illness when it occurs, we need to remember that only about 20% of employees ever experience a mental illness. Therefore, if we only address employee mental illness, this means we are ignoring the mental health of 80% of employees.
Rather than working to keep mental health in check, I would propose that we actually grow employee mental health. I would propose that that employers and workplace practitioners (health, wellness, wellbeing, safety, etc.) be proactive, not just reactive, when it comes to employee mental health.
Employers and workplace practitioners need to be proactive by focusing on both mental wellness and the prevention of mental illness. Promoting mental wellness is akin to promoting the good life as championed by the field of positive psychology.
The field of positive psychology grew out of the recognition by psychologists that simply reducing or eliminating mental illness does not, by itself, automatically create mental wellness and the good life we all desire. Positive psychology was created in 1998 by a group of psychologists who recognized that examining what is good in life is just as important as examining and correcting what is bad. They also recognized that the positives in life are what make life worth living.
It is important to be proactive about what makes life worth living. Life has its ups and down as we face life’s problems, issues and challenges. These problems, issues and challenges, while being a natural part of life can and do cause us psychological or mental distress. By being proactive, we can address psychological or mental distress before it grows into a diagnosable mental illness.
Keeping employee mental health in check is an insufficient approach to employee mental health. Employers and workplace practitioners also need to grow employee mental health. After all, research on the happy worker hypothesis has concluded that a happy worker is a productive worker.
Employers and workplace practitioners need to become mental wellness pioneers and grow employee mental health.
©2021. William McPeck. All Rights Reserved.