The recent suicides of iconic fashion designer Kate Spade and internationally renowned chef Anthony Bourdain renewed attention on a disturbing trend in the U.S. Deaths by suicide have been increasing across the country for almost two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s recent report showed that suicide rates have jumped over 30 percent in half the states since 1999. Yet many who take their own lives suffer in silence, and often there aren’t warning signs to those close to them. The CDC study reported that 54 percent of people who died by suicide had no known mental health condition, such as depression.
Authorities on workplace culture see those numbers as further evidence that employers should prioritize mental health initiatives for their employees. “Integrating mental health and wellness practices into an organization makes a huge difference for individuals and the company as a whole,” says Kerry Alison Wekelo (www.actualizeconsulting.com), a human resources expert and author of Culture Infusion: 9 Principles to Create and Maintain a Thriving Organizational Culture. “They know you care. As leaders are looking to improve their workplace, it’s vital to have employee mental health as a big part of the conversation. How employees feel directly impacts their contribution.”
Work is the one of the most common sources of stress, according to the American Psychological Association’s latest survey. Stress can lead to mental illness or substance abuse, which can costs employers between $79 and $105 billion annually according to the Center for Prevention and Health Services. “Unhappy people create a negative work environment, which will cost you financially in absenteeism, decreased productivity and healthcare expenses,” Wekelo says.
Wekelo lists four ways employers can increase awareness about mental health in the workplace and provide help in that regard for their employees:
About Kerry Alison Wekelo
Kerry Alison Wekelo (www.actualizeconsulting.com) is managing director of human resources and operations for Actualize Consulting. She also is author of Culture Infusion: 9 Principles to Create and Maintain a Thriving Organizational Culture. Among her other accomplishments, Wekelo is a yoga teacher, life coach, award-winning author of children’s books, and the founder of Zendoway, a company that encourages holistic wellness.