Mental health disorders can affect anyone, any time, and anywhere. Certain environments can push the stress button at any given moment, becoming the catalyst in altering our mood and how we think. The workplace is just one example of an environment that can affect our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Our mental health affects our ability to handle stress, make healthy choices, and deal with others. The mental health and stress circle can easily seem like the norm when our ability to cope is at its peak. However, when we are not at peak performance, our mental health comes into question, along with the inability to respond appropriately in certain situations. In recent years our society, along with leading health professionals, quickly made the subject of mental health a priority for those who needed it, personally and professionally. As mental health issues rose exponentially, it was recognized that there was also a need for easily assessable resources. These resources could be the contributing factor that positively impacted the outcome of many situations in work or non-work settings. In response, public health experts came up with a specific plan that became a framework to improve the mental health and well-being of millions of Americans while at work.
In the video below, the Surgeon General talks about the framework for mental health and well-being. It focuses on essentials for employees based on two human needs – safety and security. These needs are based on Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This motivational theory suggests that at the base level of the pyramid, physiologic needs for survival must first be met, followed by safety. He suggests that at this level, people want to experience order, predictability, and control in their lives. This need can be met by family or society, using the examples of emotional security and financial security or plainly stated, our jobs and well-being in society.
The five essentials of the framework are:
- Protection from Harm
- Connection and Community
- Work-life Harmony
- Mattering at Work
- Opportunities for Growth
Essential number one is Protection from Harm. A workplace must make employees feel physically and psychologically safe. This can be done by prioritizing safety on all levels, allowing employees proper time for rest and supporting mental health needs. The second essential is Connection and Community. This essential will help to foster positive relationships and interactions between employees by creating trust, feelings of inclusion, and increasing teamwork. Work-Life Harmony is the third essential. When this is out of balance, it can create conflict at work or in a non-work setting. To establish the balance, the Surgeon General recommends that employees have more autonomy over how their work is done, a more predictable and flexible schedule, and respect for boundaries set between work and non-work time. Essential number four, Mattering at Work. Employees want to know that they and their work matter. Offering recognition, showing gratitude, and engaging employees in workplace decisions are just a few examples that can make people feel they matter. The last essential is Opportunities for Growth. Providing employees with growth opportunities based on their skill level makes employees more optimistic and enthusiastic about contributing. Quality professional development training, mentorship, and providing precise steps to career advancement can help employees grow in any position.
The Surgeon General is quoted saying,
This framework is quickly becoming the new roadmap for recruitment and retention in the workplace. It perfectly highlights what improvements need to be made and the achievable steps that can be done to make this happen. Change is inevitable, and this one change can help the workplace and workers to adapt to obstacles, be resilient, and become mentally and physically stronger.