As the pandemic slowly winds down and more people head back to the office, mental health has become an increasingly more prominent conversation. On the heels of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, we’re hearing more stories of mental distress and complete breakdowns in the workplace.
In Los Angeles, an off-duty firefighter fatally shot a fellow firefighter and wounded his captain at their small community station. He later set his house on fire and committed suicide. According to authorities investigating the incident, the shooter and the firefighter who was killed had a longstanding job-related dispute.
That shooting occurred less than a week after a man opened fire at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority bus and rail yard in San Jose. The shooter, 57-year-old Samuel Cassidy, killed nine of his co-workers before turning the gun on himself. Acquaintances of Cassidy told authorities he had a short fuse and a longtime grudge against his workplace.
This month, four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka also announced she wouldn’t take part in required press conferences due to concerns over her mental health. Tennis officials responded by fining her $15,000 and threatening to expel her from the tournament. Osaka later pulled out of the French Open and said in a statement that her decision not to talk to reporters was due to struggles she’s experienced in the past. “The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”
Support from athletes like basketball superstar Steph Curry and Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez have since poured in. Hernandez responded on Twitter saying, “Even though it shouldn’t have to be like this, I’m proud of you for putting your foot down. Your mental health matters and should always come first.”
These incidents are just another reminder of the importance of understanding and addressing mental health issues both in the workplace and at home. According to the CDC, mental health disorders are among the most burdensome health concerns in the United States. Nearly 1 in 5 US adults aged 18 or older reported experiencing a mental illness during a 2016 study. While tackling this issue can be tricky, there are ways employers can better help their employees. Here are some actions employers should take to help address mental health issues in the workplace according to the CDC:
- Make mental health self-assessment tools available to all employees.
- Offer free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression from a qualified mental health professional, followed by directed feedback and clinical referral.
- Offer health insurance with no or low out-of-pocket costs for depression medications and mental health counseling.
- Provide free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling, or self-management programs.
- Distribute materials to all employees about the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and opportunities for treatment.
- Host seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques, like mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation, to help employees reduce anxiety and stress and improve focus and motivation.
- Create and maintain quiet spaces for relaxation activities.
- Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members.
- Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions about issues that affect job stress.
Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator
Twice-named a U.S. News Best Lawyer in America for employment and labor law, Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and certified workplace and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH) in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues.
Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, NewsNation, ABC News, CBS News, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Forbes.com, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Daily Journal, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.
Angela is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California dispute resolution company. She also owns her own dispute resolution law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in the mediation, arbitration, and investigation of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other workplace claims, along with Title IX, sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct conduct cases, along with hazing and bullying cases in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, fraternities and sororities; fire, police and other public safety agencies and departments; and other private and public sector workplaces.
For more information regarding resources for employers, businesses, and employees during this time, connect with her on LinkedIn for new updates, or contact her here. You may also follow her on Instagram.
This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.