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Resilience series, Part 3: Mental health awareness

It isn’t groundbreaking news that the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on declining mental health. In fact, over 90% of the population believes the US is experiencing a mental health crisis. And in 2023 alone, 61% of workers surveyed had experienced at least one symptom (e.g., anxiety, depression, burnout) of mental health.

While the workplace isn’t solely to blame (many factors impact mental health), there are things that small businesses can do to help support their employees. And in the third part of this six-part Resilience series,* we’ll cover the impact that mental health awareness has on small businesses, and what owners can do to help their staff stay resilient.

Create a supportive environment

Reduce the stigma around mental health in the workplace by creating an environment where your team can talk openly about what they’re going through. When employees feel encouraged to participate in an open dialogue, they’ll be more inclined to seek help and support when they need it. Allow employees to take mental health days and invest in educational sessions around mental health awareness. Most importantly, ensure business leaders openly support mental health initiatives.

Encourage flexibility

Allow your employees more work-life balance by providing flexible working hours, access to counseling services and training for managers to recognize when employees need help. Understand that life happens, and it’s in the best interest of your employees—and your business—to accommodate life occurrences when needed.

Lead by example

Advocating for mental health starts at the top—with the leaders of your small business. When owners and managers are open with their personal experiences and show a strong commitment to mental health advocacy, employees can feel empowered to ask for help. Leaders who promote transparency, with no retribution for anyone who may be suffering, encourage a trusting atmosphere where everyone can take their mental health seriously.

Provide tools and resources

Access to mental health resources is more prevalent today than ever. Offer subscriptions to wellness apps, invite mental health professionals into your business for workshops and provide contact information for counseling services. Resources like these can prove to be lifelines for employees who may be struggling through tough times.

Train employees

Offer Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for employees on every level to recognize the initial signs of mental health issues (e.g., changes in behavior, mood swings, decreased productivity) and provide early assistance. Awareness of common signs can help employees provide timely support and prevent any issues from escalating. MHFA doesn’t diagnose or treat mental health issues, but it offers a trusted, listening ear and gives reassurance to someone who is struggling. Visit mentalhealthfirstaid.org for more information.

Remain alert and adaptable

As some of the younger generations might say, “Life be life-ing.” And that means businesses need to be adaptable to the evolving well-being of their teams. Schedule regular check-ins with each team member to gauge how they’re doing, both personally and professionally. Keep a pulse on the overall mental health of your workplace by soliciting anonymous feedback through wellness surveys. Make the changes necessary to ensure your team is supported.

Become—and stay—resilient

Employees thrive in environments where they feel heard, valued and supported. By adopting the strategies mentioned above, you can improve your workplace atmosphere and make a positive impact on your team’s ability to remain resilient when it comes to mental health.

*In the upcoming articles of this series, we’ll continue to explore the ways small businesses can remain resilient in the face of adversity.

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