A mental health crisis among America’s children might not seem like a workplace issue at first glance.
But if your workplace is typical, about 40% of your colleagues are working parents of children under age 18. And as any working parent knows, when your child is not well, the stress and worry of home and family life often come into work with you.
About 1 in 6 children in the U.S. have a mental health issue, such as anxiety, depression, or attention and behavior disorders. If left untreated, the consequences of these issues can range from academic or social struggles to substance abuse or self-harm.
For parents, the health and well-being of a child can affect their own health and well-being – and that can impact their job performance. A 2021 survey of more than 3,000 working parents in the U.S. found:
53% of working parents have missed work at least once a month to deal with a child’s mental health issues.
54% of working parents interrupted their work to address a child’s mental health needs.
Working parents under age 40 say they are more likely to choose employers based on access to mental health care benefits and resources.
While 85% of working parents think it’s a good idea to discuss children’s mental health, fewer than 1 in 4 have talked to their managers, human resources department or colleagues about their children’s struggles.
That last point is an important one to Karie Batzler, director of behavioral health at Capital Blue Cross.
“We all know issues at home don’t just switch off once we step into the workplace, but we often see a reluctance to talk about how that stress can carry over,” Batzler says. “Employers can play an important role in starting a dialogue around mental wellness, whether it impacts employees or their family members, and employers can help connect their employees to resources that can help.”
Capital Blue Cross, for example, offers resources for both its own employees and its members, including:
A behavioral health toolkit that employer groups can use to foster a more supportive work environment.
A devoted mental health and wellness page on Capital’s website.
A telehealth resource that goes beyond physical healthcare by offering fast and convenient access to psychologists, psychiatrists and other licensed behavioral health professionals.
A mobile app that helps users improve their mental wellness and better address anxiety, depression, and other mental health needs.
Capital also supports its employees through an employee assistance program and volunteer-led employee resource groups (ERGs) that foster dialogue and a sense of connection among employees who share common interests, backgrounds, or demographic characteristics.
No matter the path forward for your company, it can all begin with a simple conversation, according to Batzler.
“Often times, it can go a long way just to tell someone, ‘I’m sorry to hear about what you’re dealing with and please let me know how I can help,’” Batzler said. “Once a dialogue begins, it can pave the way toward seeking help and finding resources to support the employee and their family.”