Another year, another May. However, this year is different.
We’re still climbing out of the worst pandemic in over 100 years while swimming in the mire of an economic depression equal to that of the Great Depression. People have died, jobs have been lost, and a contentious election tore America’s partisan divide even deeper.
Not to be a downer, but life lately has been an up-and-down roller coaster of a dumpster fire—and it’s taking its toll on Americans’ mental health.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has conducted its “Stress in America” survey since 2007, but the 2020 survey is different. It reveals that the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with a host of other external factors, is having real and dire consequences on our minds and bodies.
“We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come,” the APA report states in its foreword. “We need to act right now to help those who need it and to prevent a much more serious and widespread mental health crisis.”
While May might seem like just another mental health awareness month, it brings with it an important (and potentially life-saving) opportunity to make a real difference. As a small business owner, there’s a lot you can do to prioritize your employees’ mental health.
Below, we’ll walk through ways you can better support your employees. Some tactics are easy, while others will require time, money, and energy—but the effort is more than worth it.
This article is less of a how-to and more of a please-do. Don’t just read it and move on with your day—do something about it.
You need to figure out the state of your employees’ mental health. Take an anonymous poll, form focus groups, get your leaders in a room for real talk—or do all of the above.
Find out if employees are feeling overworked or burned out. Don’t just ask about their workloads—while respecting privacy, evaluate their overall well-being with anonymized data. For example, it doesn’t matter if an employee’s calendar is looking light if they just lost a family member to COVID.
Company leaders need to “understand how to treat employees and how to give grace during times of stress, I think that’s where [they’re] going to make the biggest impact,” says Patricia Grabarek, a professor of psychology at USC.
If your employees’ mental health evaluations uncover concerning issues, provide solutions. No, you can’t fix all of your employees’ concerns—but you can make a real difference with the resources, policies, and support you provide.
Here are a few things you can do:
Like we said above, not every mental health support tactic is going to be easy. Some will require time and money. However, these are all smart business decisions for both the short term and long term—and they’re also just honest-to-goodness tactics that show you care about the real people beneath the title of “employees.”
Some employees will need more support than others, and this is your opportunity to give it to them. Some employers offer free childcare services for parents, while others guarantee no layoffs.
Point your staff to easily accessible resources. Don’t assume they know where to look when times get hard:
We compiled a full list of other resources and apps here.
Don’t let this May come and go like the months before it. Make it a May to remember by prioritizing the mental health and wellness of your employees. It’s more than a sound business decision—it’s just being a good person.