Deep Bench: Employer incentive program encourages a mentally healthy workplace

(WZAW) -- About 1 in 5 employees will experience a mental health condition each year. But given the right resources, all employees benefit from a supportive and psychologically safe workplace.

Young shocked businessman sitting with laptop at desk, having headache, poor cash flow, balance, low profit, unable to deal with fears, burning out, sacrificing physical and mental health for business

That is why Mental Health America created the Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health. It’s a first-of-its-kind certification program, which recognizes employers who are committed to creating mentally healthy workplaces.

Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America and Dr. Russ Petrella, president and CEO of Beacon Health Options, joined NewsChannel 7 at 4’s Deep Bench via satellite on Monday, where they shared more about creating a stable, supportive, and less stressful work environment.

Gionfriddo said mental illness in the workplace is far too prevalent. “Two thirds of all employees say that workplace stress is so great, that they often engage in unhealthy behaviors as a result. One in six people will actually have to interrupt their career at some point because of a mental health condition, most frequently depression or anxiety. And on any given work day, we lose about one person to suicide while they’re on the job.”

According to Mental Health America, more than 10 million adults have an unmet need for mental health treatment. That number has not declined since 2011.

Dr. Petrella is a clinical psychologist. He said depression and anxiety are the most prevalent mental health conditions employees face while at work. “It ties to stress,” he said. “It gets more complicated as people try to treat themselves and they start self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.”

He said it’s up to the employers to create a safe and comfortable work environment so their employees know they can raise issues when it comes to mental health and stress.

“Dealing with mental health issues can be embarrassing, that there’s a certain negative aspect to it that people don’t want to talk about,” Dr. Petrella explained.

Employers want employees who are engaged, productive, and loyal. By implementing policies and practices that support employee well-being, Gionfriddo said employers can improve their productivity, bottom line and competitive edge.

Mental Health America has created the Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health. Employers are measured in five areas: leadership, culture, health insurance and benefits, such as employee assistance programs, other perks and programs and their compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act as they apply to people with behavioral health conditions.

“Any employer, big or small, is able to get recognized for good things they’re doing to support employee mental health, recognizing that none of us are perfect.”

An organization with Bell Seal certification will be nationally recognized as a company that values mental health and a mentally healthy work environment for all employees. The program is open to any employer, public or private of any size.

For more information or application materials, visit