By Brandon Vargis
Each year on October 10th, the World Health Organization recognizes World Mental Health Day to raise awareness about mental health and its staggering social and economic impact. It aims to destigmatize the subject and help shine a light on data suggesting a surge in this global concern. All of us in organizations (small, medium or large) need to be aware of and take action in solving this “quiet but threatening” crisis.
Statistically, one in four individuals is impacted by a mental health disorder, yet 60% don’t access care due to stigma or lack of access. This has led to depression being the highest cause of disability worldwide, and suicide becoming the 10th leading cause of death in the US. In economic terms, mental illness causes over $100 billion in lost productivity each year.
Factoring in the Pandemic, estimates put a rise in anxiety and depressive disorders at more than 25%, while at the same time, mental health services have been severely disrupted and the treatment gap has widened.
Organizations have an opportunity to help narrow this gap and promote mental health awareness. As a Neurodiversity advocate, I’m often asked where to begin. My answer is through community, education, and partnerships.
Community begins with Employee Resource Groups. They provide strong foundations that are employee-focused and empowering. When launched effectively, they become incubators for programs that ensure the right approach for your organization. They yield grassroots programs and create a supportive space for your employees to support each other during times of need.
Education promotes effective leadership and destigmatizes mental health topics. Several leading organizations now include mental health awareness training as part of employee onboarding and certify front-line managers such as Mental Health First Responders to create an ecosystem of support. Including mental health check-ins during employee one-on-ones proves beneficial for identifying those otherwise suffering in silence.
Partnerships with organizations such as NAMI, and similar groups promote amazing results by providing support to employees through seminars and improved access to care. These organizations can open doors that may have never been realized by those in need.
Any of these steps can make a difference in the lives of those impacted by mental health disorders, and it’s an important part of not only being a healthy organization but one that looks beyond the bottom line. As a leader, you may unknowingly be the light someone needs in their darkest hour.
Brandon Fargis is a technology executive and neurodiversity expert. He speaks globally regarding the benefits of Neurodiversity as part of a comprehensive DEI strategy and its benefit to innovation. This month he highlights World Mental Health Day and the steps we can take to become more supportive and inclusive leaders.
Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.