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Guest column: Addressing mental health in the workplace is aim of expanded collaboration in McHenry County

Mental Health Board, NAMI, county and Economic Development Corp. work together to enhance work resources

The McHenry County Mental Health Board, in collaboration with NAMI McHenry County and the Suicide Prevention Task Force, announced the expansion of outreach to workplaces with training, certifications and awareness. This effort was launched at the McHenry County Economic Development Corp. annual dinner Nov. 8.

Information was presented on the Bell Seal Certification, given for employer advances in workplace mental health, and recognition was given to the McHenry County government for its Mental Health America Bell Seal Gold Certification.

At the annual dinner, Business Champions were recognized, and business leaders were challenged to consider expanding their mental health programs.

Studies show that by addressing mental health in the workplace, productivity increases, turnover decreases and employee satisfaction is enhanced. Costs from absenteeism due to mental illness can be reduced through greater understanding and support for those who struggle.

Mental Health American reports that 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year. Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S., and in McHenry County, suicides rose 72% from 2020 to 2022.

The McHenry County Mental Health Board, with its more than 70 network providers, is dedicated to reducing the incidents of suicide through greater awareness, training and resources for individuals and families.

NAMI McHenry County offers training to staff and employees for mental health and suicide prevention at the workplace. Workshops are 45 minutes in length for mental health (statistics, warning signs, resources), and Question, Persuade, Refer for suicide prevention.

Human resources professionals and supervisors will benefit from mental health first aid training. Awareness and access to community resources will be offered. Many resources are free, such as the MCHELP app for text or voice support from mental health professionals 24/7 and a countywide directory.

A plethora of in-service trainings by experts in the community on topics such as stress reduction or personal financial management are available to businesses through the Mental Health Board. These programs can provide valuable knowledge and skills enabling individuals to better navigate both their personal and professional lives while promoting mental well-being.

Businesses are encouraged to follow the example of the McHenry County government to become certified for the Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health. Other practical resources offered to corporations and businesses are initiatives and campaigns such as “Mind Matters” or “Let’s Talk” using resources and trainings by local community experts.

Prioritizing mental health in the workplace is crucial not only for the individuals involved but also for the success and effectiveness of the entire organization. Employees want workplaces that are stable, supportive and less stressful. Employers want employees who are engaged, productive and loyal. By implementing policies and practices that support employee well-being, employers can achieve the distinct but complementary goals of both.

Promoting mental health in the workplace demonstrates that employers recognize and care about the well-being of their employees beyond just their professional contributions. By providing resources, support and open communication about mental health, employers can contribute to breaking down the stigma surrounding these issues and empower employees to seek help when needed.

Creating a mentally healthy work environment for all employees can attract potential employees and increase retention; improve engagement and productivity; reduce health care costs and lost revenue as a result of poor workplace mental health; address concerns with presenteeism and absenteeism; reduce the rate of turnover; and identify gaps and learn about resources to improve support for employees.

The Bell Seal recognizes employer advances in workplace mental health by awarding annual recognition levels of bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

Employers understand the fundamental relationship between mental health and the workplace, and when an organization becomes Bell Seal certified, it sets itself apart as a company that values mental health.

Leonetta Rizzi is executive director of the McHenry County Mental Health Board. The mission of the MCMHB is to lead and contract for quality behavioral health (mental health and substance use disorder) and intellectual/developmental disability prevention and treatment services for all people of McHenry County.