Every year, 18% of the U.S. population experience some type of mental illness.** Keep in mind that “mental illness” can mean a lot of things. Obviously, 18 out of every 100 people aren’t running around acting crazy at some point during the year. That’s because they aren’t crazy. They are normal folks.
Chances are, you know or sit near someone that has or will struggle with their mental wellness. You have a real opportunity to be a hero. You can make a difference to someone struggling. Don’t underestimate the significance here.
How do I make a difference, you ask? Do two simple things:
First, just pay attention. Ever had a coworker that clearly seemed “off” or has outwardly talked about problems they are having? If someone clearly isn’t themselves in the way they act or their recent performance, don’t be afraid to be human and just ask if everything is OK. You can lead and encourage others without prying inappropriately.
Second, know that resources exist to help people. Do you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through work? If you don’t know, find out. If you are in HR, promote it. Don’t let the information just be something you mention once a year or hang a single flyer in the lunch room. People need to know that it’s there, that it is free and confidential to deal with anything bothering them. And, it can be used to help anyone in their immediate family in most cases. If that’s outside your realm, at least encourage others to look into it.
Many other great resources exist. A couple that I like are http://www.workplacementalhealth.org/ and http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/workplace-wellness.
You may never really know for sure what difference you made by encouraging someone. Beyond that, it can have a ripple effect. If your co-worker Susan takes your advice, uses the EAP and gets better, she becomes a more confident person which impacts those she loves. Maybe she ends up helping someone else based on her experience…and the ripple continues.
Don’t underestimate the opportunity you have every day to be that hero. We all need to step out of our own bubble and pay attention, not only to the great things we have, but to the things we can help with.
**Data from U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 12/2013
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