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Knowing that colleagues use mental health benefits may encourage others: study

Photo: Carol Yepes/gettyimages

London — People who are aware that their co-workers are using employer-provided mental health benefits may be more likely to use them too, researchers say.

Led by Laura Giurge, an assistant professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, a team of researchers studied 2,400 workers at a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical corporation that had a peer-to-peer mental health support program.

The researchers randomly assigned the workers to watch an overview of the program. Some workers read a “mild” story about a co-worker using services to help with stress and anxiety at work. Others learned of a more “severe” case in which a colleague sought services while experiencing depression outside of work.

Findings show that the workers were 8% more likely to sign up for services after reading about the “mild” story and 6.6% more likely to do so after learning of the “severe” story.

In an article featured in the Harvard Business Review, the researchers write that the findings “illustrate the power of storytelling in encouraging seeking mental health support.”

They recommend employers normalize seeking help for mental health concerns by taking steps to destigmatize the process.

“One way to encourage employees to make use of existing mental health resources is by creating a support culture in which sharing about each other’s mental health challenges at work – no matter how small or large they are – is celebrated rather than judged,” the researchers write.

Giurge told Safety+Health the research is “currently ongoing” and hasn’t yet been published.

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