Why Leaders Should Learn About Mental Health

For a long time, discussion about mental health has remained largely sidelined to hushed private conversations. That is beginning to change as more and more public figures are honest about their personal struggles. This has opened up a great opportunity for leaders to facilitate these conversations within their own organizations. Despite this change, many leaders feel uncomfortable addressing the mental health concerns of those they lead. For many, this is due to the stigma. For others, it is more a lack of understanding or knowledge about the topic. My partnership with Modern Inklings will help to address both of these problems.

For some leaders, the question is more about the tradeoff: “Is it worth opening that can of worms?” “Do employees really want to talk about mental health?” My challenge to you is that talking with your employees and intentionally striving to create a work environment that is friendly to mental health is well worth the time and effort.

According to the research of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.” This means that more people take off of work for depression than for conditions such as heart problems or cancer. In related research, NAMI found that anxiety disorders affect 42 million American adults. This constitutes over 18% of American adults and a significant number of people in the workforce. Depression and anxiety are the two concerns I work with most often. A large number of the people I see relate a significant portion of the problems they’re facing to their job and the stressors that come with it. Even if this doesn’t result in a clinical diagnosis, many people simply feel overworked, underappreciated, or lost in the crowd in their workplaces.

I was talking with someone recently who just left one job and began another. He described the concern the company showed when he put in his two week’s notice and how they told him that they hated to lose his talent. He explained to me that he couldn’t understand why they showed such concern when he was leaving including wanting to do an exit interview when no one had taken the time to ask him how they could improve the working experience while he was actually working there.

Whether you are a leader in your organization or are looking to grow in your leadership capacity, you will likely be coming into contact with individuals living with anxiety and depression. My encouragement to you is to take some time to learn more about the challenges they face and how you can help.

Here are a few great questions to ask your immediate team members to get the conversation started:

  • What is your biggest stressor on the job?
  • Has your job caused any problems for you outside of work?
  • If your child or partner was sick, do you feel that you could take off work without repercussions?
  • What is one thing you wish your boss would understand about the day to day experience of working here?



NAMI. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/learn-more/fact-sheet-library

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