4 ways employers can support women’s mental health

Dr. Anna Mandeville
Publish Date

Juggling personal and professional responsibilities and trying to maintain mental and physical health is no easy feat. This is especially true for women, who are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression.  Yet working women across locations, industries, and roles are making a positive impact in their workplaces, their fields, and the world at large–even with the pay gap. Many of us are balancing career and carer obligations, taking care of children or elders and our teams at work.

Understandably, all of these elements combined can increase stress. This eventually translates to feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or depressed as women feel pressured to deliver on multiple fronts.

And with so much on our plates, taking care of our mental wellbeing can feel like another item to tick off an ever-growing list—despite its importance. We need support, and we need it yesterday.

So what can workplaces do to better support women’s mental health?

Every woman is unique and deals with her own unique circumstances. In mental health, as in life, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all. Even so, there are a few key steps employers can take to help women overcome existing barriers to mental wellness. Here are four to get you started:

1. Make your workplace a safe space

In a safe space, women (and everyone else) are more likely to feel like they can raise their hands for help when they need it. The good news for everyone is that vulnerability, transparency, and freedom to speak up with ideas, questions, concerns, and mistakes are trademarks of psychologically safe workplaces  and high-performing teams.  Fostering this culture, however, is no small feat. It has to be sanctioned and backed from the top down. It must be genuinely modeled by leaders. Putting in processes for a team to be  “reflexive” (reflecting on how psychologically safe and effective they are as a group) can help anchor and  “spread” the right behaviors. Business leaders may also want to consider creating safe peer networks for women to talk and share their personal experiences. These “psychological communities” help develop a sense of connectedness, which is proven to protect mental health.

2. Reduce stigma with mental health talk

Stigma continues to be a significant barrier to care, as many women fear being seen as weak or unprofessional for seeking more help if stress starts to feel unmanageable or a life event has them scrambling to build their coping skills. Make it easier for everyone to get help and get through inevitable struggles by making mental health talk  part of your organizational culture. Communication is vital.  Promote open dialogue and consider putting on regular events, such as training and seminars to support balanced mental health habits. Remind everyone regularly of the resources available to support them if they need an extra boost and make sure people know how they can be accessed.

3. Lower barriers to care with smoother pathways

Taking the first steps to seek out mental health support can feel challenging and uncomfortable, especially for busy professionals. Make the process as easy as possible by reducing friction in accessing care pathways and lowering barriers (scheduling, expense, and distance, among others) whenever possible.  Enable quick, discreet access to mental health support with digital-first platforms that offer varying levels of support—depending on each woman’s individual needs. Early intervention is critical, especially for higher levels of need. If needed, this can be provided by incorporating a prompt step up to a teletherapy appointment with a mental health professional.

4. Drive accountability and action with data

What gets measured can be managed and, more crucially, changed for the better. Without data on the mental wellbeing of the women on their teams, how can employers expect to support them? Measuring employees’ wellbeing helps leadership identify needs and direct resources in the right direction. Keeping track of results helps drive accountability and, with it, action.

The professional, personal, and societal pressures working women at all levels face can increase their likelihood of dealing with mental health struggles.  To better support them, organizations must take action and put mental health squarely on the agenda— in multiple ways.

Resolved to take action to support mental health for all at your organization this year? Contact us at info@koahealth.com, or schedule a call with one of our experts here.

about the author

Koa Health R&D Director, Dr Aleksandar Matic

Dr. Anna Mandeville

UK Clinical Services Director

Anna is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with extensive experience in Mental Health Services and Physical Health Psychology. She has designed, transformed and managed large-scale services to deliver psychological impact.