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Mental Health: Let’s talk About It
By Bill Barr, chief operating officer at SAIF
Right now, many employees are feeling anxious and stressed—they could be worried about the health of their family and loved ones, financial stress, the future of the organization, lack of childcare, or fear of catching the virus. This is especially true in construction—an industry with high rates of stress, fatigue, and suicide, and now facing the uncertainty of a pandemic.
As an employer, supervisor, or even co-worker, it’s important to communicate that stress and anxiety are normal. Talking about it provides an opportunity to share resources and is an important step towards reducing the stigma around seeking support for mental health concerns.
Only one in three people who need mental health support get it, according to the American Psychiatric Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Similarly, free employee assistance programs offered by employers typically have a 3-5% rate of use nationally; yet we know the need is far greater.
The reasons these numbers are so low vary, but include stigmatization, fear of losing their job, or simply lack of access to resources. Whatever the reason, mental health experts say the consequences are far worse when people stay silent.
Employers can help workers build resiliency and cope with stress by adopting the following steps:
Talk about it—and listen
There are a lot of ways to support a culture of well-being, but an easy place to start is simply bringing up mental health. Daily check-ins with your team, either one-on-one or in groups, can go a long way, as well as asking thoughtful questions about how they are doing and truly listening to what they have to say.
See some of our tips for bringing it up in the workplace.
Offer helpful resources
We recommend promoting mental health services and resources, including remote access to an Employee Assistance Program. Beyond just asking about mental health, ask employees how their equipment, tools, and resources are working for them. Listening for ways to provide training, equipment, and flexibility can help employees feel supported.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), when supervisors support workers and encourage them to manage work and nonwork demands, “workers report lower levels of work-family conflict and improvements to their sleep, schedule control, job satisfaction, well-being, and physical health.”
Reduce workplace stressors
Employers can seek ways to reduce harmful stress, especially during the pandemic. This includes allowing flexible schedules when possible, encouraging employees to take breaks and available paid time off to take care of their physical wellbeing, while showing they are valuable to the organization’s mission.
For more ideas on creating a healthy workplace for mental well-being, visit saif.com/wellbeing. It’s also important to learn how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and ways to prevent suicide in the workplace.
Bill Barr, SAIF’s chief operating officer, leads the company’s claims management, policyholder safety services, IT, and administrative services. He serves on the Oregon Construction Industry Suicide Prevention task force.
SAIF is one of the Oregon-Columbia Chapter’s sponsorship partners. Without them, we would not be able to have the successful events and meetings that we are able to offer!