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  • Writer's pictureCARL EVANS

Workers Unite For Mental Health!

Updated: Jul 31, 2022


We look at May as Mental Health Awareness month but we at The Network also recognize May 1st as International Workers Day.

May 1 is a symbolic date established to commemorate the 1886 Chicago Haymarket Affair. The protests in Chicago were part of a national and global movement focused on mass reforms to almost every labor sector for workers' rights. The highlight of the action was a demand for a standardized 8-hour workday.

We would like to embrace this day to highlight the intersections of labor with mental health.

It would take at least 20,000 words just to competently scratch the surface of a comprehensive discussion on labor reform to support mental health.

In this brief blog, there are three things we would like to highlight as teeny tiny bites of this massive topic.

First, mental health impacts our workspaces, like every other space we occupy, and therefore it is a space to combat stigma and make proactive prevention accessible.

A landmark joint study from Penn State and Texas A&M was published in 2018. Researchers studied the impact of mental illness on job performance and attendance across American counties from 2008 to 2014. Among their fascinating findings, they found that mental health challenges of any kind of diagnosis impacted the American economy by nearly $53 billion in lost wages and productivity annually, and that is a conservative projection.

An astonishing 2012 study composed by Emory University and an independent team of researchers illuminates just how many may be impacted by mental illness in the labor sector. They examined 92,486 persons working at 7 US companies over three years. They tracked the cost impact of “ten modifiable” health risks, such as smoking, obesity, and inflammatory bowel diseases. In their results, mental illnesses such as depression had the highest cost impact on companies across all labor sectors. Nearly 48% of the 91,486 persons tracked were adversely impacted by mental health challenges that created performance, and attendance disruptions.

A quick search online on the impact of underserved mental health in the workspace will yield hundreds more articles and research data echoing these conclusions.

Workspaces that do not develop supportive resources and avenues within their structure ultimately are impacted on their bottom line. And they create spaces that can be harmful to someone’s existing mental health challenges. This brings up the SECOND point. The protests that instigated International Workers' day weren’t just about 8 hours and some money.

Those and even current labor reform movements continue to seek to humanize the human doing work and labor systems that seem to be inhumane or indifferent to our humanity.

It is hardly controversial to say companies can appear to treat their workers like machines or expect them to be machines without emotions, physical limitations, dignity, and the basic expectation to not be abused and exploited for their efforts.

Workspaces can be rife with the stigma that perpetuates silence.

Workspaces can be built on labor practices that tear a human being down.

Workspaces can have social-political environments that are toxic and rife with bullying, harassment, and bias.

Moreover, mental health isn’t just therapy, medications, and crisis hotlines.

Effective mental health care also confronts housing security, food stability, and a number of quality of life intersections essential to creating a stable, healthy living experience.

A job can secure those things, which can lead to a valid conversation on the concept of needing capitalism as a vehicle for access to a stable, healthy life.

That is a good conversation to have, but we table it to stay on point in this blog. A blog article focused on our workspaces (as the system currently exists) that can be part of building a community proactive on mental health in the same way that we want to activate schools, civic spaces, and households.

The CDC states: “About 63% of Americans are part of the US labor force. The workplace can be a key location for activities designed to improve well-being among adults. Workplace wellness programs can identify those at risk and connect them to treatment and put support to help people reduce and manage stress. By addressing mental health issues in the workplace, employers can reduce health care costs for their businesses and employees.”


This brings us to our third and final point. The Hope For Us Network can help build and develop Proactive Mental Healthcare practices in your workspace.

Just like organizing and calling for a union, you don't have to own the company or be an executive or in any realm of leadership to advocate for proactive prevention to be a feature of your company.

The Hope For Us Network can help your workspace develop proactive mental health care practices. And being able to offer free therapy and other direct services would be a dream; that isnt the only thing companies can be doing.

Mountains of research confirm that proactive mental health care practices can stabilize and even enhance…

  • Individual Job performance

  • Overall organizational productivity.

  • Onsite safety, security, and upkeep

  • Physical capability and daily functioning

  • Reduce workforce attrition and increase retention

Speaking at the capitalist level, these factors and evolving the workplace environment are conducive to growing the bottom line and reducing overhead costs in any size organization.

Speaking at the human level, there is no sound reasoning to permit our workspaces to be hostile to our health and wellbeing. Even wherein a job is innately dangerous, highly stressful, or any other situation that can be physically and mentally taxing.

We have the tools and the ability to enshrine practices and policies that can support someone’s mental health regardless of the scale and scope of the labor and workspace.

We at the Hope For Us Network can work hand in hand to customize a strategy bespoke to the characteristics of each workspace.

The Proactive Solutions can include things like…

  • Strategies to confront stigma and normalize the topic because that stigma-driven silence is often the first obstacle to confront. What good is a program if people are too scared or embarrassed to use it?

  • Mental health and stress management educational programming

  • A campaign to Raise the Visibility of existing resources within an organization or in community proximity.

  • Create resource packages for direct distribution to team members

  • Develop enhancement workshops for management and leadership to assure stigma-free environments are maintained and reinforced at all levels.

  • Do you have an EAP program? Even if you don't have the budget for an in-house one, there are avenues to develop a sustainable ad-hoc style system with external resources.

A company that invests in its labor force can find itself in a healthier, more stable place than one that treats its workers like inmates that need to be monitored and motivated by punitive incentives.

Embracing a proactive mental health environment reflects that an organization regards its workers as actual human beings and respects the dignity of that individual.

If you are interested in starting down the proactive path, please contact us today!

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