Mental Health

We need to talk about mental health at work, say employees

People cross an illuminated floor at a banking district in central Tokyo November 27, 2014. Japan's jobless rate fell and the availability of jobs edged higher in October from the previous month, government data released on Friday showed. Picture taken November 27, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter (JAPAN - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - RTR4FW42

60% of respondents said they hadn't spoken to anyone at work about their mental health in the past year. Image: REUTERS/Thomas Peter

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Mental Health

Half of Millennials and 75% of Generation Z workers have left a job voluntarily for mental health reasons, compared to 20% of older generations.

That’s according to a recent study from Mind Share Partners that analyzed the responses of 1,500 adults in the private, non-profit and government sectors to shed light on the prevalence of mental health challenges - and stigma - in US workplaces.

Millennials and Gen Zers are paying more attention to their mental health than previous generations did, which the authors of the study say “speaks to a generational shift in awareness”.

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A resounding 86% of respondents thought that a company’s culture should support mental health.

This percentage was even higher among Gen Zers and Millennials, the latter of which are the largest generation in the US workforce and more likely to switch jobs – two factors that should, in theory, motivate employers to promote better mental health in order to retain and attract talent.

“Mental health is becoming the next frontier of diversity and inclusion, and employees want their companies to address it,” the authors wrote.

Image: Mind Share Partners

Looking beyond diagnoses

Mind Share Partners, a non-profit that works with companies to improve mental health resources, partnered with with SAP and Qualtrics to produce the survey.

It aimed to encompass the “full spectrum, from 100% mentally healthy to chronic and severe impairment”. So instead of measuring the prevalence of mental health conditions through diagnosable disorders or general stress levels, as previous studies have done, the researchers took a different approach.

Their survey included questions about individual symptoms: “In the past year, have you ever felt sad, numb, or lost interest or pleasure in most activities for at least two weeks?”

Almost two-thirds (60%) said they had experienced symptoms of a mental health condition in the past year, with 37% saying their work environment was a contributing factor.

Image: Mind Share Partners

Time for culture change

Less than half of the respondents said they felt mental health was a priority in their workplace, with even fewer confident the leaders in their organization were raising awareness of it.

Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity, according to the World Health Organization. And yet many people feel afraid or uncomfortable talking about their mental health at work.

In the US, where some 200 million workdays per year are lost due to depression, 60% of the survey's respondents said they haven’t spoken to anyone at work about their mental health in the past year.

Employees want this to change. Mind Share Partner's research found employees overall want mental health training, clearer information about mental health resources and a more open and supportive culture for mental health at work.

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