The cultural shift toward greater mental health awareness has helped bring needed attention to psychological suffering, improve access to mental health resources, and reduce stigma. However, it may also be increasing the pathologization of ordinary life, leading people to think of themselves as mentally fragile and unwell. This creates a challenge for employers. How can they support workers’ mental health without encouraging them to dwell on their negative thoughts and feelings? The author argues in favor of what he calls an outward-action approach to mental health: evidence-based mental health strategies that don’t encourage a fixation on one’s own negative thoughts and emotions.
Employers and managers are increasingly focused on the mental health needs of their workers, and for good reason. In the last decade in the U.S., there has been a consistent increase in anxiety and depression, especially among young adults. According to a survey conducted by KFF/CNN in 2022, half of American adults under the age of 30 and one-third of adults overall reported that they often or always felt anxious in the last year. A 2023 Gallup poll found that one-quarter of American adults under 30 indicated that they currently have depression, a significant rise from the 13% reported in 2017. In a Business Group on Health survey of 152 large employers in the United States, 77% indicated an increase in mental health issues among their workforce during 2023.