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Why you need to talk about mental health in the workplace

Five tips for addressing it.

Millennials with a behavioral health condition are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a chronic physical condition such as hypertension, type II diabetes and coronary artery disease. Read more about how 92 percent of millennials believe COVID-19 has impacted their mental health by downloading the Supporting the behavioral health of your millennial employees External Site mini whitepaper by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

This article was last updated May 2020.

The workplace comes with a variety of personalities and attitudes — sometimes on the same day, from the same person. While it’s easy to assume an employee’s negative attitude stems from their outlook on a project or tough feedback, there may be a different underlying issue.

Mental health can be difficult to address with employees. Plus, there isn't one common experience — even the term "mental health" is a catchall for a number of conditions, including depression, stress, anxiety and more.

Before you pigeonhole what LinkedIn refers to External Site as “Donna-do-nothings,” examine if there’s a story or issue behind each employee’s behavior. Additionally, what can you do to reengage your employees or link them up with resources?

The costs of sidelining mental health in the workplace

A 2016 report from the World Health Organization External Site forecasts there will be 12 billion workdays (that's 50 million years of work) lost globally to depression and anxiety disorders alone by 2030 if current mental health efforts aren't scaled up. Let's bring that down to a more local level:

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72 percent of employees want their employer to champion health and well-being.

Depression alone costs $200 million in lost workdays.

81 percent believe on-the-job stress affects relationships with friends and family.

1 in 5 adults experience mental health issues, and 60 percent aren't seeking treatment.

Sources: Survey of office workers, Peldon Rose, 2018,, Mental Health America,

How you can help your organization's mental health support system

When your employees are spending 40-plus hours in the workplace, there’s not a lot of extra time to deal with inter-office conflicts or sort through personal issues. Offering purposeful resources within your workplace ensures your employees feel supported.

  1. Start by increasing awareness about mental health topics.

    You can provide education and resources from national organizations like American Psychiatric Association External Site, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance External Site, Mental Health America External Site, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. External Site
  2. Offer training for all employees.

    Regardless of employee status in the company, everyone should have access to training to properly cope or help coworkers struggling with various mental health issues at work.
  3. Encourage work-life balance.

    If employees have medical appointments, want to avoid major traffic in a long commute, or be cautious with poor weather conditions — consider offering work-from-home or flexible hours. Having options in place may help prevent burnout.
  4. Provide an Employee Assistance Program.

    This is a great option to include within your workplace to provide free and confidential services External Site for employees dealing with work or personal issues.
  5. Consider employer consulting or well-being programs.

    These types of programs can support creating an environment within your workplace to promote healthy behaviors (e.g., financial, social, career, community, emotional, and physical well-being).

Bonus tip: Invest in a virtual visit service.

A virtual visit service allows your employees to connect with licensed therapists to cope with depression, relationship issues, workplace stress, trauma and loss, social anxiety or addictions — all from their mobile device. Get the Mental Health and Virtual Visits flyer Secure Site (M-2020299) on the Wellmark Marketing Toolkit to download and share with your employees.

Ending the mental health stigma in your workplace

Wellmark is committed to creating an environment in the workplace that promotes healthy behaviors. Through our employer consulting and well-being services, we look beyond your employees’ claims and provide a variety of evidence-based programs that address the six elements of well-being: social, emotional, physical, community, financial and career.

Our services can provide you with tools and resources to help you create a desired workplace culture that:

  1. Aligns health and well-being to your organization’s overall mission and vision.
  2. Expands on the definition of traditional physical wellness to include the six elements of well-being.
  3. Emphasizes engagement over participation.

If you think your workplace could benefit from these programs, contact your authorized Wellmark account representative to get started, or email us at Send Email.