Each October 10, World Mental Health Day strives to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilize efforts in support of “healthier” mental health. Organized by the World Federation for Mental Health and supported by WHO, the International Association for Suicide Prevention, and United for Global Mental Health, this day provides a forum to discuss what needs to happen to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.
The Numbers Please
For several reasons, it’s critical to measure and understand how common mental illness is. One of those reasons being to grasp the physical, social, and financial impact mental health issues have on the collective society. But even more, pressing than that is the need to show that no one is alone.
- 19.1% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2018 (47.6 million people), representing 1 in 5 adults.
- 4.6% of U.S. adults experienced serious mental illness in 2018 (11.4 million people), representing 1 in 25 adults.
- 16.5% of U.S. youth aged 6-17 experienced a mental health disorder in 2016 (7.7 million people)
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34
These eye-opening numbers can be powerful tools for raising public awareness, advocating for better care, and eradicating the stigma associated with mental health conditions.
The most common conditions by annual prevalence among U.S. adults:
- Anxiety Disorders: 1%(estimated 48 million people)
- Major Depressive Episode: 2%(17.7 million people)
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: 6%(an estimated 9 million people)
“Probably 20% of people in the country have some form of mental health issue at some point in their lives, with less than 5% having severe problems with mental health issues,” states Moe Gelbart, a psychologist and founder of the Thelma McMillen Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment. “Mental health problems are on a continuum from very little to very severe.”
While stats point to some 20% experiencing a mental health issue, Gelbart explains, “That impact is multiplied by three or four when you’re thinking about the impact on society. For example, if dad is depressed, he might not be going to work. His wife is feeling the effects of that. And so on.”
That’s even more reason to encourage open discussions about these issues, to educate folks on the various conditions, and show them how and where to access help.
Know the Signs
Employers should be attentive to changes in behavior that could signal an employee is suffering from depression or anxiety. Possible signs may include—
- taking longer to complete routine tasks
- difficulty communicating with coworkers
- an increase in comments about not feeling well
- calling in sick more often frequently
- withdrawing from co-workers
- increased frustration, nervousness, or irritability
Creating a supportive environment
Employers can set the tone for a supportive environment by providing easy access to educational materials and organizational resources. From posters and literature in the break room and inserts included with payroll to features from national organizations like the American Psychiatric Association, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Mental Health America, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the company newsletter. Don’t forget to scope out local and regional support groups and post their information as well.
Other employer-led stigma-busting steps to promote mental health
The CDC recommends these additional steps:
- Offer free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression from a qualified mental health professional, followed by directed feedback and clinical referral when appropriate.
- Offer health insurance with no or low out-of-pocket costs for depression medications and mental health counseling.
- Provide free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling, or self-management programs.
- Host seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques, like mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation, to help employees reduce anxiety and stress and improve focus and motivation.
- Create and maintain dedicated, quiet spaces for relaxation activities.
- Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members and encourage them to seek help from qualified mental health professionals.
- Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions about issues that affect job stress.
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