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How Small Businesses Can Support Mental Health Care

More than any other physical impairment or condition including diabetes and hypertension, mental health disorders are now the leading cause of lost workdays. Nearly 45 million people or 1 in 5 adults reported a mental illness in 2016 according to the CDC. While we’re discussing stats, let’s consider that 63 percent of Americans make up our workforce. So, where else but in the workplace can outreach programs designed to improve adult wellness reach the most people. Not only will employers reduce health care costs and improve productivity but also alleviate the stigma by addressing those mental illnesses associated with increased rates of unemployment and disability.

According to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, there is a prevailing myth that people can never recover from mental illness. Nothing can be further from the truth, in fact, 65 to 80 percent of people improve with a diagnosis and treatment. Returning to work boosts their self-esteem and becomes an important part of their life and recovery.

Workplace Wellness Programs Increase Among Small Businesses and Employers

The 2017 Workplace Health in America survey conducted by the researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health found that as company size increased so did the number of worksites with wellness programs. Wellness programs have had great success in larger companies like Herman Miller, EY (formerly Ernst and Young) and Prudential Financial.

Through the survey researchers learned that 39 percent of companies with as few as 10 to 24 employees had some workplace health promotion program. The study’s research team suggests that smaller companies and employers have more resources concerning safety, but even a small employer can introduce the health aspects into a safety program to create a culture of wellness for all employees.

What Small Businesses Can Do to Help Employees Manage Stress and their Mental Health

It may seem overwhelming for a small business to accommodate employees with mental health issues. But in reality, it’s a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, and can be as easy as providing part-time status for employees, adjusting arrival times or shift changes, or allowing employees to work from home. Below are some helpful tips and other suggestions for accommodation:

  1. Don’t try to assess or diagnose a worker’s condition. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on a business owners ‘perception’ of a disability. Unless you hold a medical or mental health provider licenses and the employee is also your patient, your diagnosis of someone’s disability is unlawful. 

  2. Never ask an employee about their health directly, as in “How’s your health these days?” Instead ask “How can we help you do your job?” This opens communication for the employee to voluntarily share concerns about their health or job stress.

  3. Educate employees where they can find help with job stress and mental health. Provide the toll-free numbers to local churches and non-profit organizations that assist individuals with mental health issues. Help can also be found on the Mental Health America website.

  4. If you provide insurance, review insurance information with employees. Many employees are unaware about the benefits of their own wellness programs.

  5. Provide an impromptu get-together, monthly potluck or an ice cream social, to share information and educate others about the symptoms and signs about the stress and depression.

  6. Be sensitive to employees’ feelings. Do not use programs that could be perceived as shaming or humiliating.

  7. Consider an Employee Assistance Program.

  8. Learn about the many available apps geared towards emotional well-being. Happify is a science-backed cellphone app that provides games and activities for better mental health. With a greater peace of mind as the goal, 86 percent of users report feeling happier within 2 months. MoodKit is another app that uses cognitive therapy, and according to their website, helps people adopt and apply professional psychology to everyday life.

  9. If possible provide a paid time off plan (PTO). Basically employees get a reserve of paid hours off according to the number of hours worked. For example, if an employee has worked three months, a business could provide 4 hours or a half day off paid for every month worked. The structure can be any scenario, but the idea is that workers can choose how and when they want to use their time off whether it’s for a doctor’s appointment, an illness or just to run errands.

The Lynch Law Firm employees a doctor of organizational psychology, Lindsey Lee, because the importance of mental health is so paramount to our employees and employers. Reach out to us today to understand how we can scale your employee’s health needs to your business operations. 


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Half of all American workplaces offer health and wellness programs." ScienceDaily. (accessed September 28, 2019)