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Mental Health & Wellness

The World Health Organization describes mental health as a state of well-being. Reflecting this perspective, The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) defines mental health as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, works productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. OPM fully supports all Federal employees in reaching for and realizing the highest level of mental wellness. It is important that all employees, including leadership members, are aware of how Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can play an important role in being mentally healthy.

Workplace Mental Health Programs

Mental health is an important issue in the workplace. OPM and U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued a memorandum to Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies to encourage agency leaders to build and maintain support work environments. The memorandum highlights the importance of employee awareness and access to appropriate resources. The memorandum also includes fact sheets to help supervisors and employees gain insights into mental health statistics and issues and learn what to do if they are concerned about someone. Below are links to the memorandum and fact sheets.

EAP personnel play a vital role in achieving healthy outcomes for Federal employees and their families. They are present to provide confidential, non-judgmental guidance and support. There are a number of ways agencies can effectively partner with EAP personnel to support employees' mental wellness:

  • Emphasize that EAP services cover a broad range of needs that can improve mental wellness for most employees.
  • Host information sessions where EAP services can be explained and highlighted.
  • Train supervisors on how to encourage EAP use for all staff members, and the services available to support their employees.
  • Train supervisors on when and how to directly refer an employee to the EAP.
  • Safeguard confidentiality of employee health information.
  • Educate employees on mental health benefits available through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.
  • Hold depression recognition screenings.
  • Place confidential self-assessment sheets in common areas to assist employees in identifying areas of personal need.
  • Support employees who seek treatment or who require hospitalization and disability leave, including planning for return to work and flexible work schedules.

Reducing the Stigma of Seeking Help

An essential role of Federal Work-Life and EAP Coordinators involves reducing the stigma associated with seeking support around mental wellness. An agency may have an excellent EAP program; however, the stigma associated with mental health support may discourage employees from seeking assistance. Employees need to be reminded that everyone experiences stress, fatigue, and mental overload at times. Other employees experience ongoing challenges related to depression and other mental illnesses. Regardless of the level of mental wellness, the EAP can assist, support, and encourage employees to invest in their own mental well-being. This can only increase the chances that employees will show up to work every day able to focus and ready to be productive.

Messages on Maximizing Mental Wellness

Below are sample messages to help in a communications campaign to maximize mental wellness and reduce the stigma associated with mental health support. Agencies should tailor communications as appropriate for their workforce.

  • All employees need support around better managing daily responsibilities and life events
  • Whether support is needed around stress management, fatigue, substance use disorders, dealing with a traumatic life event, or any other issue that impacts one’s mental wellness, EAPs are there to provide assistance
  • People who deal with ongoing mental illnesses, such as persistent depression or anxiety make important contributions to our families and our communities
  • People with mental illnesses recover, often by working with mental health professionals and by using medications, self-help strategies, and community supports
  • Stigma and fear of discrimination are key barriers that keep many people from seeking support

You can make a difference in the way people see maximizing mental wellness if you:

  • Learn and share the facts about mental health, especially if you hear or read something that isn't true o Treat people dealing with mental health challenges with respect and dignity;
  • Support the development of community resources for employees and their friends and family
  • Respect the rights of employees and don't discriminate against them

For more information, we encourage you to review the Department of Health & Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Developing a Stigma Reduction Initiative

General Resources on Mental Health

Mental Health Guides

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration has developed several FREE, useful guides for professionals and the general public. Federal Work-Life Coordinators, EAP Administers, and employees are encouraged to utilize these materials when addressing issues regarding mental health.

Stress at Work

The National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health's Stress at Work (external link) website offers knowledge about the causes of stress at work and outlines steps that can be taken to prevent job stress.

National Institute of Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health (external link) is the lead Federal agency for research on mental and behavioral disorders. Here you can find a vast about of information regarding mental health, as well as current and past research initiatives.

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