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The Journal Gazette

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Sunday, November 10, 2019 1:00 am

Mental health in workplace

Workshops to discuss at issues affecting employees

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

If you go

What: Mental health awareness in the workplace sessions

When: Wednesday at Grand Wayne Center

• 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The first session, “Mental Health at Work: Costs, Consequences, and Strategies,” is geared toward executives, managers and HR professionals. It focuses on a broader view of why it's important for employers to respond to the mental health needs of their employees.

• 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. The second session is geared toward employees and managers. “Why It's OK Not To Feel OK – How Can Employers Help?” provides practical information regarding how to help employees with their mental health.

Reservations: Can be made until midnight today at workplacementalhealth.eventbrite.com. Cost to attend the event, including lunch, is $35 per person or $250 for a table of eight. For more information, call 260-422-6441, or go to the MHANI website at www.MHAnortheastindiana.org.

Sometimes an employee's issues are personal, like a divorce or the death of someone held dear.

Other times, they're work-related, such as extremely high expectations from superiors or sensing a lack of support.

Either way, these sorts of stress inducers need attention.

“What makes you successful as a manager is that (employees) are successful,” said Sean Godar, director of Solutions Development for Employers Heath. “So just going to them and talking to them is very fundamental behavior ... to make sure they're OK.”

Godar, who is based in Ohio, will be in Fort Wayne on Wednesday, presenting workshops to emphasize the importance of mental health in the workplace. His visit is being hosted at Grand Wayne Center by Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana.

The deadline to sign up through Eventbrite online is today. About 150 people are expected to attend.

Mental health and substance abuse cost U.S. businesses between $80 billion and $100 billion annually, the organization said in a news release. About 1 in 5 adults – 18.5% of the population – experience mental illness each year.

“Building and retaining an effective workforce is time-consuming and costly, so it is important for employers to keep their employees healthy mentally as well as physically,” Lisa Smith, of Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana, said through email.

“Understanding how to identify and respond to employee mental health concerns can head off crisis situations by getting employees the help they need before it becomes disruptive to the team and the business's bottom line,” she said. “More and more, area employers are contacting us, seeking training and educational materials that help them work kindly and effectively with employees who might be experiencing mental health issues.”

More than half of the people diagnosed with a mental health issue don't seek or get treatment, Godar said. Sometimes it takes awhile to get scheduled with a mental health provider. And sometimes people who could benefit are deterred by the cost.

Many companies have access to programs or referral information that can help. But if the details are tucked away in a “50-page treatise of benefits,” it may be more difficult to share or for employees to find.

People dealing with mental health concerns are at risk of not being able to fully function socially or at work.

“Every life has its ups and downs,” Godar said in a telephone interview. Inevitably, even the personal emotional tolls can spill over into the workplace.

“It's the ability to really deal with stress. Everyone has a threshold, period,” Godar said. “The way that we effectively manage it is extremely important.”

Just as common as divorces and the death of loved ones, some employees are under the strain of caring for an ill relative. Some employees battle loneliness and other circumstances that can be hard to cope with.

Employees who are happier and healthier are more responsible and productive, he said. When employers have employees “on the other end of the spectrum,” it's going to cost them money – often in brand image and brand perception.

Managers – without being a clinician – can typically discern something may be off key, based on an employee's behavioral or performance changes, Godar said.

Managers shouldn't assume an employee has the potential to become explosive or destructive, unless they are incoherent, jumping around and edgy or worse, talking about violence, guns or something of that nature, Godar said.

Particularly if job performance is affected, that's a way to begin a dialogue, constructively noting what a manager is seeing or not seeing. But making sure expectations were clear up front is crucial, Godar said.

He likes to have specific conversations with his staff about expectations and his role.

Even if an employee is struggling, some times denial – or the automated response “I'm good” – is immediate when a manager asks about changes or performance.

“What really makes it significant is that second time you ask,” Godar said, “and I'm not saying you ask like a week later.” The second query, he said, “really expresses I care; I'm concerned. I'm sincere.”

It's easier and more effective for managers who have built a connection that regularly shows genuine concern about employees. A weekly or bimonthly session to catch up and see if an employee is having any issues is a good practice, Godar said.

“Really getting to know people as a person helps them to feel valued.”

lisagreen@jg.net