The Benefits of Mental Health Employee Resource Groups

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of working age adults live with a mental health issue. Every year, 12 billion working days are lost to depression and anxiety alone. These numbers don’t include the caregivers and family members whose work is disrupted when a loved one needs mental health support.

Since the pandemic, employees have placed a greater emphasis on quality of life and self-care. Mental health employee resource groups (ERGs) are one way that employers can address the mental health needs of their employees.

What Is an Employee Resource Group

Over the past several decades, and especially since the pandemic, workplaces have come to see the importance of  encouraging employees to be their whole selves at work. Workers are members of specific racial, ethnic, or social groups. They’re parents, spouses, and children. Workers have health conditions and disabilities. Some of these identities may make it harder for workers to find support and development opportunities in the workplace.

ERGs aim to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace by supporting all employees. These are voluntary, employee-led groups. An organization might have an ERG for LGBTQ+ employees, Black employees, female employees, or working parents. The groups exist to provide support and help personal or career development. They create a safe space where employees can bring their full selves. Seventy nine percent of companies say that ERGs help employees’ mental health, which makes forming a mental health ERG a natural idea.

What Is a Mental Health Employee Resource Group

A mental health ERG is not just for people who live with a specific mental health condition. A mental health ERG can be for any employee who is interested in learning more about mental health or is passionate about improving mental health. A mental health ERG can promote mental health awareness, education, and resources to coworkers. Ideally, the team will include managers and executive leadership, as well as front-line workers.

Mental health ERGs will often bring in speakers or training, or advocate for mental health related benefits. The very existence of a mental health ERG can help employees feel that they work in a safe space to be open about their challenges.

The Stigma of Mental Health Issues

According to Kaiser Permanente, eight out of ten workers with a mental health condition say that shame and stigma prevent them from seeking care. Untreated mental health issues cost companies billions of dollars every year.

Because workers are unsure how their mental health issues or the mental health issues of their family members will be treated by employers and co-workers, they stay silent. Silence only increases the stigma and shame. ERGs devoted to mental health can be a great way to reduce the stigma of mental health issues.

Caregivers and Mental Health

According to the AARP study “A Look at U.S. Caregivers’ Mental Health,” 4 in 10 caregivers report feeling “rarely or never” relaxed due to their caregiving duties. Meanwhile, more than half declared that this role made caring for their own mental health a challenge.

With the increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression that often accompanies caring for a loved one’s health, caregivers are especially at risk of burning out. For organizations, this equates to higher turnover, absenteeism, and lower productivity. A mental health ERG, or a caregiver ERG, can help support employees in this difficult position.

How Leadership Can Support a Mental Health Employee Resource Group

For an ERG to help overcome the stigma of mental health problems, it’s important that it has visible support from leadership.

Company leadership can help support a mental health ERG by:

  • Participating in the ERG.
  • Providing a budget to cover the expenses of activities and distributing information.
  • Allocating work hours for ERG members to attend the group’s activities. If people have to choose between getting work done and attending an event, they are unlikely to attend the event.
  • Establishing a clear and accessible procedure for the ERG to provide feedback and suggestions to upper management.

Nearly 70% of people with a mental health condition make a complete recovery. But that recovery can’t come if people are afraid or unwilling to seek help. By making mental health a visible priority, employers can help reduce the stigma and create a healthier and more engaged workforce.

Find out more ways to support your employee caregivers by learning about the benefits that can help

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