One in five U.S. workers struggles with thoughts of self-harm or suicide—here’s what managers can do to support them

The mental health crisis in America continues to rage on, and workers are struggling without effective resources and support. The toll on employees has reached alarming levels. According to a recent survey by Wysa, a mental health app company, one in five U.S. workers reported having thoughts of being "better off dead" or "hurting themselves" in the past two weeks. These feelings are even more prevalent among younger workers, with 35% of 18-to-24-year-old employees reporting such thoughts, compared to 26% of 35-to-55-year-olds.

Smriti Joshi, the chief psychologist at Wysa, says the findings were "alarming" and that people need a psychologically safe space to discuss these feelings, which can be difficult for many workers to share with loved ones or colleagues. The high numbers reflect larger population-wide patterns, with suicide rates for U.S. citizens aged 10 to 64 increasing by 36% between 2000 and 2021, and around 5.2% of U.S. adults aged 18 and older having serious thoughts about suicide in 2022, rising to 13.6% for those aged 18 to 25.

Beyond their own mental health struggles, employees are also concerned about their coworkers. Around 22% of U.S. workers say they've been worried that a colleague may "harm themselves" or "take their own life" in the past year, and tragically, 12% have experienced a work peer attempt or complete suicide. However, less than a third of survey participants have received training on how to address mental health concerns in the workplace.

Joshi emphasizes the need for companies to create a safe and supportive environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health. More than half of U.S. employees don't believe their employers have been proactive in addressing and supporting employee mental health, and 38% say their employer sees it as an out-of-work or personal issue.

To address this crisis, Joshi suggests that companies should heed the demands of employees, such as offering PTO options to focus on mental health and workload reductions for those who disclose emotional struggles. Employers should also implement mandatory mental health training for leaders, initiate frequent check-ins with staff, and encourage open discussions about mental health challenges. 

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