Workplace Wellness

What are the Most Common Mental Health Struggles Facing Employees Today?

Written by Kate

Mental health struggles afflict more people than we think. A recent survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shows that 34% of employees aged 18-29 and 28% of employees aged 30-49 have considered leaving their current job because of its impact on their mental health. Worse still, 52% of workers experienced severe burnout in the past year that made it hard for them to do their job. 

Supporting these employees’ mental wellness isn’t just good policy, it’s good business. But before we talk about strategies, let’s consider the numbers. 

7 Most Common Mental Health Struggles Facing Employees in 2024

1. Stress and Burnout

According to the American Institute of Stress, 62% of workers across North America experience high levels of stress, including extreme levels of fatigue. For 65% of employees, workplace stress has caused difficulties which make it hard for them to work. The causes of stress vary, but the most common include:

  • Heavy workloads (41%)
  • Culture and interpersonal relationships (32%)
  • Poor work-life balance (18)
  • Lack of job security (9%)

When left unchecked, workplace stress eventually leads to burnout, which then cause severe problems in other areas of life. According to a FlexJobs survey, 75% of workers have experienced burnout at work to varying degrees. In the workplace, burnout manifests itself as energy depletion, reduced professional efficiency, and increased cynicism about your job.  

2. Depression

Another common and serious mental health condition is depression. It affects about 21 million Americans, though this number may be underreported due to the social stigma that still persists with seeking mental healthcare. The causes of depression include social challenges, workplace stress, illness, and more.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is not the same thing as feeling sad for a few days. It can persist for weeks or much longer. Here are some symptoms to look out for: 

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Hopelessness and pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities once enjoyed
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Changes in appetite and weight (eating more or less than usual)
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Note: Depression symptoms can vary from person to person in severity, frequency, and duration. Some people may experience a major depressive episode only once in their life, while others have recurring episodes. 

depressed man in an office

3. Anxiety

Like depression, workplace anxiety can be a direct by-product of stress. Workplace anxiety can also stem from factors such as excessive workload, tight deadlines, job insecurity, difficult relationships with colleagues or superiors, lack of work-life balance, and workplace harassment or discrimination. 

There are three main types of anxiety disorders you’re likely to encounter among employees:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Persistent and excessive worry about various aspects of life, including job responsibilities, making it hard to stay focused and productive.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: Intense anxiety in social interactions due to fear of being judged or embarrassed, which can hinder workplace meetings, presentations, and networking events.
  • Panic Disorder: Can bring sudden, unexpected panic attacks that make everyday situations, like meetings or presentations, overwhelming. 
  • Specific Phobias: Excessive fears of particular objects or situations like flying, heights, or enclosed spaces, impacting employees who need to travel or work in certain environments.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Persistent unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) that can interfere with productivity and timely task completion.

4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD often follows traumatic events and may lead to nightmares, anxiety, and difficulty focusing at work. In the workplace, PTSD can affect concentration, make certain environments/situations challenging, and strain interpersonal interactions.

According to the National Center for PTSD, 5 out of 100 (5%) adults in the U.S. experience PTSD in any given year. Generally speaking, about 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the U.S. population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.

5. Schizophrenia

This chronic mental illness affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech/behavior, impaired cognitive ability, and lack of motivation. For employees, schizophrenia can significantly disrupt job performance, communication, and functioning depending on symptom severity and treatment status.

6. Bipolar Disorder

While not as common as some struggles on this list, bipolar disorders can be just as disruptive. Often, they’re characterized by dramatic shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels with cycles of manic (elevated) and depressive episodes. During manic periods, individuals may experience inflated self-esteem, impulsiveness, racing thoughts, and decreased need for sleep – impacting job productivity and decision-making. Depressive episodes bring excessive fatigue, hopelessness, and disengagement.

7. Substance Use Disorder

Substance use is a common escape for stressed and burdened people. Most will turn to alcohol, opioids, cannabis, and painkillers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 14.5% of the American population had a substance use disorder in 2020. 

Compulsive use of drugs/alcohol can lead to serious consequences. Employees struggling with addiction may have impaired judgment, concentration problems, increased absenteeism, and dangerous workplace behaviors. Withdrawal symptoms like nausea, shakes, and irritability can also hinder job performance if they develop during the workday.

helping your employees

How Can You Help Your Employees?

Recognizing the mental health struggles your employees face gives you a rough idea of where to start when addressing them. It also equips you with the knowledge to integrate mental well-being into the workplace culture proactively. Here are practical steps to promote mental wellness among your staff: 

  • Foster an Open Culture: Encourage open conversations about mental health. When leaders share their own experiences, it reduces stigma and creates a safer space for employees to seek help.
  • Provide Access to Resources: Offer mental health resources like counseling services, employee assistance programs (EAPs), and wellness workshops. Make sure employees know how to access these services.
  • Promote Work-Life Balance: Implement flexible working hours and advocate for clear boundaries between work and personal time.
  • Regularly Assess Workloads: Periodically review workloads to ensure they’re manageable, and assist employees in prioritizing tasks to reduce stress.
  • Address Bullying and Harassment: Enforce anti-bullying policies and swiftly handle any incidents to maintain a safe work environment.
  • Educate Managers: if you have a larger team, train managers to recognize signs of mental health struggles and direct team members to appropriate resources. According to Forbes, 70% of employees say their manager has more impact on their mental health than even their doctor.

Mental Health Resources

Want more resources to help you support your team? Check out our insightful articles and guides on various aspects of well-being to create a more supportive, healthy workplace for your team.

And if you’re ready to offer mental health support, schedule a call with one of our Benefits Specialists and learn how to get started today!

Corporate Wellness Benefit Managers having a discussion while looking at an electronic tablet.

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