6 in 10 Office Workers Face Mental Health Discrimination – Are You Next?

As employees strive for success, a hidden challenge often holds them back. No, it’s not a lack of skill or opportunity to advance. It’s the fear of being subject to mental health discrimination.

In the bustling world of work, mental health often takes a backseat, treated as an afterthought, while we prioritize productivity and profits. Our mental health can become the casualty of this relentless pursuit of success as stress, anxiety, and excessive workloads are normalized.

Addressing this critical workplace issue, a new workplace mental health survey has unveiled a startling reality: 60% of workers have experienced discrimination due to their mental health conditions.

If you’ve been fortunate enough not to experience it yet, you might be next, and the consequences can be devastating.

The comprehensive Mental Health 2023 Report by ResumeLab is a resounding call to action for corporate America. It exposes the distressing truth that mental health is often disregarded or neglected as employees strive to maintain appearances and stay productive.

However, the cost of ignoring mental health is steeper than we realize. It directly impacts the personal lives, professional growth, job satisfaction, and overall well-being of employees. Inevitably, a significant 66% of respondents have experienced work-related mental health issues over the past two years, with 68% taking time off work due to mental health conditions.

Depression and anxiety leads to stress and burnout, and results in a loss of approximately 12 billion working days worldwide each year, costing a staggering $1 trillion in lost productivity.

With all this data pointing to the prevalence and impact of mental health discrimination, why is it still happening in today’s supposedly progressive and inclusive workplaces?

Fear of Disclosing Mental Health Conditions

Despite efforts to raise awareness and promote understanding, mental health conditions are often met with misconceptions, judgment, and skepticism.

According to the report, 68% of respondents expressed apprehension about disclosing their mental health condition at work. They fear admitting their struggles might lead to negative consequences, such as being perceived as weak or incapable, facing discrimination, or even jeopardizing their job security. Many feel compelled to hide their mental health challenges, afraid that seeking support or accommodation may be seen as lacking dedication or commitment.

Additionally, 58% of workers feel mentally or emotionally unsafe in their workplace, and 60% feel their employers or colleagues disregard their mental health issues, exacerbating their feelings of isolation and vulnerability.

This fear’s impact is clear. The report also reveals a concerning trend: a higher percentage of millennials and Gen Z workers leave their jobs due to mental health-related reasons, indicating a pressing need for change.

Yet, many employees’ mental health struggles are caused by work pressure, including excessive workloads, long working hours, toxic environments, and job insecurity.

With the survey revealing that emotionally draining work, such as stressful, overwhelming, or monotonous tasks, contributes to mental health problems for 70% of participants, the importance of supporting mental health in the workplace becomes even more evident.

“This data confirms that fear and stigmas surrounding mental health in the workplace still exist,” said Agata Szczepanek, Career Expert at ResumeLab. While much progress has been made to support workers, continuing to improve policies and building inclusive and accepting work environments should remain a priority for companies.

Investing in Employee Well-Being Pays Off

Recognizing mental health issues isn’t just about compassion; it’s also a smart business move. Offering access to mental health benefits like counseling and wellness programs can make a real difference in how employees feel mentally.

One of the key benefits of prioritizing mental health is the boost it provides to employee satisfaction and productivity levels. Employees who feel supported in their mental health tend to be happier and more engaged. As a result, they are less likely to leave the company and less prone to frequent sick days, ultimately benefiting the company’s bottom line.

The Disconnect Between Talk and Action

An impressive 77% expressed satisfaction or high satisfaction with their organizations’ efforts in addressing mental health concerns, with 71% taking advantage of this support. The survey also showed that most respondents were comfortable discussing their mental health with coworkers (68%) and their boss (66%).

However, talking doesn’t translate into meaningful support. Sadly, 60% felt their employers and coworkers ignored their mental health struggles, suggesting that we need more than just conversations; we need real action to tackle the root issues.

Nearly a third (27%) of respondents feel ashamed to use their company’s services, with 42% seeking help outside work instead. A concerning 24% fear that reaching out for support could backfire, like missing out on promotions or raises. Equally troubling is that 21% were afraid they would face discrimination.

The lack of education and awareness among employers and coworkers also significantly perpetuates mental health discrimination. When individuals are unfamiliar with mental health conditions and their impact, they may inadvertently engage in discriminatory behavior or fail to provide the necessary support.

Related: Where to Find Free (or Affordable) Mental Health Resources & Crisis Support

Creating Safe Spaces

Addressing mental health discrimination calls for a comprehensive approach. It begins by cultivating a workplace culture that places mental health as a top priority and encourages open communication. However, simply having mental health policies, resources, and token gestures is insufficient. True progress requires genuine commitment and meaningful action.

When asked what employers can do to support mental health, access to mental health programs topped the list, followed closely by creating a supportive culture and eliminating stressors like unrealistic deadlines and poor management.

However, workers say the most significant changes they seek include taking mental health days, with 31% agreeing that it allows them to prioritize self-care and recharge. Additionally, a four-day workweek has shown promising results in improving overall well-being without compromising productivity. This, in turn, contributes to a healthier and more resilient workforce.

More money is also a factor, with 19% of respondents viewing a substantial pay raise of 30% or more as a potential solution, highlighting the crucial role of financial security in alleviating stress and supporting mental well-being.

Empowering Employees To Seek Mental Health Support

This eye-opening report is not just about statistics; it is a call for change. Offering support and resources is a significant first step, but employers must proactively address and remove the barriers that keep employees from seeking this help.

Creating an inclusive and accepting work environment, free from judgment and discrimination based on mental health, is crucial. When empathy and understanding prevail, employees can seek help without fear, leading to a healthier and more supportive workplace.

By taking concrete steps to support mental health and fostering a culture of empathy and openness, companies can boost employee well-being and improve overall productivity and job satisfaction, empowering their workforce to achieve true success and growth. Mental health matters, and it’s time to take action.

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Amanda Kay, the founder of My Life, I Guess, provides valuable career advice and support for anyone striving to make a living and, more importantly, make a life. Whether it's navigating job searches, learning new skills, overcoming unemployment, or dealing with debt, My Life, I Guess has been a go-to resource for career guidance and financial stability since 2013. Amanda's expertise and relatable approach have been featured in trusted publications such as MSN, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, the Ladders and Fairygodboss.

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