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Businesses can play a big part in addressing Utahns’ mental well-being

In this Monday, June 1, 2020 file photo, a woman looks through a window at a near-empty terminal at an airport in Atlanta. Anxiety and depression are rising among Americans compared with before the pandemic, research suggests.
AP

With the onset of gloomy winter months and a stressful holiday season, the impact of anxiety, depression and other ailments increases. But in addressing those needs, entrepreneurs, small business owners and executives are overlooked. Business leaders can positively impact the mental wellness of their employees in a number of ways, and those leaders would be wise to make sure they are taking care of their personal mental fitness, too.

Mental health struggles naturally spill into the workplace, affecting job performance, engagement, communication abilities and physical capabilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The pandemic exacerbates the problem by physically removing coworkers from one another — a source of contact that normally contains some of daily life’s richest interactions.

But the workplace can play a vital role in improving the wellness of adults. Executives should recognize the connection between mental wellness and productivity. Lost time, focus and effectiveness can be the difference for a business striving to survive in the midst of global economic downturn.

According to the CDC, “Depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time.Sadly, the data show that, “Only 57% of employees who report moderate depression and 40% of those who report severe depression receive treatment to control depression symptoms.”

Left untreated, such illnesses can lead to lost opportunities and, most tragically, lost lives and loved ones.

Rachel Merrill and Trent Mano, founders of a new Utah nonprofit, Room Here, recognized that a workplace culture can either help or hinder mental wellness.

The duo aims to change three things about mental wellness in Utah companies:

  1. Reframe the conversation, from “mental health” to “mental fitness.”
  2. Build a community of companies and individuals pledging to foster healthier dialogue.
  3. Host resources, education and events to promote mental fitness.

Companies can sign the pledge at RoomHere.org to publicly commit to creating a company culture where mental fitness can thrive.

Mano says, “We found there’s a stigma around the phrase ‘mental health,’ but ‘mental fitness’ is a lifestyle. Everyone needs to work on their mental wellness, even if you don’t have mental illness.” To spread the word, they’ve partnered with Utah companies like Chatbooks, Homie, Tava Health, Degreed, Kickstart Seed Fund and Album VC.

Such crucial, and sometimes uncomfortable, conversations are vital to achieving mental wellness. Families, communities and businesses all thrive when open and honest discussions about mental wellness are part of the culture. A number of other Utah organizations are likewise committed to bringing these conversations to boardrooms, classrooms and living rooms across the state. We commend them all.

During this stressful period of pandemic and economic uncertainty, we invite all to both seek and share critical resources for improving the mental wellness and fitness of every Utahn. If you need help, reach out. If you know someone who needs help, reach out. Together, business, employees, residents and health care professionals can help improve Utah’s mental fitness and quality of life.