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Over 50% of CEOs Report Mental Health Issues

June 24, 2024
But are they talking about it?

I have reported on many surveys that point to the increasing number of mental health issues employees are facing for a variety of reasons.

So when I came across this survey, 2024 State of Workplace Empathy Study from Businessolver, that found 50% of those surveyed reported experiencing a mental health issue, I wasn't surprised.

What surprised me is that the number was even larger for CEOs – 55%. 

This number was a 24 point year-over-year increase from the group’s survey last year. 

While instinctively we understand that CEOs face a lot of pressure, especially in tough economic times, it’s not generally something talked about. 

In fact, the CEO of Businessolver pointed this out. “We commend the CEOs who took part in this study for approaching it with honesty and openness, particularly given the persistent stigma that surrounds mental health,” said Jon Shanahan, CEO at Businessolver, in a statement. “The more leaders are in touch with and willing to share their own struggles, the greater opportunity for empathy across the organization.”

With all of the recent coverage of mental health issues, you might assume that there is no longer a stimga in talking about this subject, but you would be wrong.

The survey found that both CEOs (81%), and employees (67%) all ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that companies view someone with mental health issues as weak or a burden.

This view is supported by a study from the National Alliance on Mental Health which found that sigma and the effect of this revelation on their careers is keeping CEOs quiet. 

There is also the issue of empathy which plays into revealing struggles. In the survey, 65% of CEOs say they feel intimidated by their coworkers and a majority (72%) feel that will be challenged on decisions challenged on decisions if they use empathy, and 69% say being empathetic will “make me a pushover.”

But it’s lack of empathy that can cause a toxic workplace. The study found a strong correlation exists between mental health issues and workplace toxicity: Employees who view their workplace as toxic are 47% more likely to also cite mental health issues.

What is the role of leadership? The survey found nearly 90% of respondents agreed it’s important for senior leadership to openly discuss mental health issues to create a safe environment, in the hopes that other employees to follow suit.

There has been improvement as 73% of employees believe their manager emphasizes the importance of mental health, indicating a rising degree of empathy being executed at the supervisor level.

So, the question becomes how can CEOs help themselves and their organizations at the same time. In an article Melissa Dorman, an organization psychologist,  offers the following advice: 

Be honest with yourself. Are you ready to talk about mental health at work? You must choose when, how, and with whom you want to share it.

Be constructive in your approach. Picking the right time and place, highlighting your goal and reasons, and explaining your concerns—are all essential for a constructive conversation about mental health.

If your company has a valuable resource (like in-house counseling or an employee assistance program), use it. This way, you can get help for yourself and then spread the word to other employees that these mental health services are becoming more common and can be advantageous. Role modeling is incredibly important here, especially since the EAP is one of the most misunderstood and underutilized resources for mental health in the workplace.

Establish your  own mental health regiment. The wellness industry has a lot of ideas about what constitutes “self-care.” But not everything works for everyone. The way you cope as a leader and do things that make you feel good may be different from other people. So, don’t force yourself to do what everyone else does, and find out what works for you.

Be a voice in a future town hall. Many companies these days hold open sessions to promote mental health awareness involving workers of all levels in an organization. That means you, as a CEO, are included and that it's okay—and even encouraged—to share your struggles.

About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Senior Editor

Email [email protected]

LinkedIn

Adrienne Selko is also the senior editor at Material Handling and Logistics and is a former editor of IndustryWeek. 

 

 

 

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