As we recognize July as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to remember King County’s commitment to supporting employees with mental health conditions in the workplace.
Established in 2008 in honor of Bebe Moore Campbell, Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was created to bring awareness to the unique mental health struggles that underrepresented groups in the United States experience. Mental health challenges do not discriminate based on race, age, gender, ability, or identity. Additionally, an individual’s background and identities can present unique experiences, specific barriers, and opportunities to get support. Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC); LGBTQ+; people with disabilities; religious minorities and other marginalized or underrepresented communities face additional barriers to mental well-being, including structural racism, access to quality care, and cultural stigmas.
For many people, employment is an essential part of our identity, well-being and mental and physical health. Employment provides a sense of purpose and allows us to build connections with others. Fostering a culture that promotes self-care and focuses on mental health as an important part of overall health and well-being is critical to building inclusion and providing support to employees in the workforce. A key part of this focus is to provide employees who experience limitations due to a mental health condition with reasonable accommodations in the workplace to be able to perform their job duties productively and effectively.
However, employees with mental health conditions continue to face barriers when requesting reasonable accommodations in the workplace. Those barriers include:
- An employee not willing to come forward with their conditions and request assistance due to denial, shame and stigma
- The lack of supervisor knowledge to recognize or understand the impacts of a mental health condition of an employee
- Difficulty knowing how permanent or temporary the symptoms are
- Discrimination or judgement against people with mental health conditions
- Lack of HR knowledge about how to accommodate employees with mental health conditions
- Treatment providers not documenting the health condition accurately, resulting in inadequate treatment and accommodations
Providing reasonable accommodations
King County is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to all its employees and applicants for employment to ensure that individuals with disabilities, including mental health conditions, enjoy equal access to all employment opportunities. It is important to note that while some individuals with mental health conditions may experience limitations that impact their ability to work or perform certain job functions, the degree to which they are impacted will vary. Some individuals with mental health conditions may not need accommodations to help them perform their job duties.
Examples of reasonable accommodations that may be provided to employees with mental health conditions include the following:
- An employee with depression may benefit from noise-cancelling headsets to help with concentration and focus.
- An employee may need a designated work area or quiet space to recover from a panic attack when necessary
- An employee coping with an anxiety disorder may need to have flexible or additional breaks built into the workday to step away when feeling overwhelmed.
- An employee with PTSD who experiences sleep problems due to their condition may need a flexible work schedule or later start time to help them cope with morning fatigue.
- An employee in a treatment plan may need a flexible work schedule in order to access medical care.
- An employee may benefit from having a dedicated person, such as a job coach, to help them focus and adjust to changing circumstances in the work environment that may be overwhelming.
These are just a few of the many examples of reasonable workplace accommodations King County have provided to employees with mental health conditions to stay at work or return to work. For additional ideas or suggestions for accommodations to assist individuals with mental health conditions, please visit the Job Accommodation Network at Mental Health Conditions (askjan.org). In addition, providing such accommodations lead to greater employee loyalty, increased employee retention, better employee morale, more positive employee relationships and higher productivity and lower costs. Providing reasonable accommodations to employees with mental health conditions, contributes to our goal of building an inclusive workplace for all.
This is one of the many ways we can support our workforce who may be experiencing mental health conditions at King County. If you need assistance with accommodation in the workplace, talk to your Human Resources representative, supervisor, the Department of Human Resources’ Disability Services staff at 206-263-9329 or DisabilityServices@kingcounty.gov, or the Metro Transit Department’s Disability Services Staff at TransitDisabilityServices@kingcounty.gov.