Experts Discuss Mental Health & Employee Productivity
Anxiety and depression – the most common mental illnesses – cost an estimated 1 trillion dollars a year in lost productivity. How can employees cultivate an environment that fosters employee mental health?
That was the question of the morning last Thursday for the Mental Health, Employee Productivity & Profits panel at Miami Dade College sponsored by Baptist Health, Rogers Behavioral Health, and Miami Jewish Health. Dr. Eneida O. Roldan, FIU Health Care Network and Associate Dean for International Affairs and FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, was the event’s keynote speaker and she shared the challenges of treating mental illness.
1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, with anxiety being the most common mental disorder. However, social stigma can prevent people from seeking help. “Who do you think is the first to identify that there’s a problem? It’s the family,” said Dr. Roldan. “And who do you think is the first to deny that there is a problem? It’s the family.” As such, it’s important for those in the workplace to be able to identify signs of mental illness i.e., super impulse use of drugs and alcohol.
Dr. Roldan also shared this advice for employees dealing with mental illness:
Enhance coping skills: “Is it easier to get the scotch or is it easier to go for a walk, exercise.”
Stay health. “We need to look at our diet, need to sleep, need to reduce alcohol, and we need to say no [to drugs].”
Increase social network: “It’s important to build yourself a very strong social network, because they can be the first to identify [signs of mental illness].”
For employers and HR departments, she recommended cultivating a culture of no guilt - “It’s fine to ask for help.” – and understanding social determinacy: “There’s no mental health if we don’t understand the environment of that individual.”
The morning continued with a panel, moderated by FIU Office of Employee Assistance Director Isabel Alfonsin-Vittoria, with HR and health care professionals. “When we’re in the workplace, we’re looking for a sense of belonging and it’s critical that employers think about that.”
Georgette Kores, Health Management Consultant for Marsh & McLennan Agency, echoed her sentiments: “Mental health has an integral part in a true work place wellness solution …If you have physical health interventions and do not address the mental health of the person, you’re missing half of the picture.”
Yolanda Menegazzo of LaRocca & Associates tied her company’s wellness program with employee recognition through team building activities, wellness gifts, employee walks and more: “It’s a wonderful thing when you bring people together in the workplace. You are improving the organization’s culture and productivity.”
Graciela “Grace” Jimenez of Baptist Health advocated for employers to engage their employees, so they don’t feel isolated and won’t start withdrawing: “You’ll notice they’re late or they’re not actively participating in activities…It starts affecting the culture in the office.”
Psychiatrist Brad Berger of Rogers Behavioral Health recommended the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as one of the easiest ways to get help. EAP is a voluntary work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments to employees who have personal or work-related problems.