DENVER, Colo. — Failing to take care of a child’s mental health can have a negative impact on our economy. A new study from the nonprofit On Our Sleeves shows that parents spend up to half their day thinking about their child’s mental health, costing companies money and time.
More than two-thirds of working parents say they are distracted by their work because they are genuinely concerned about their child’s mental health.
Mother of two, Carrie Gerdes has struggled with this personally. She was a teacher, and at the start of the pandemic her son was at home learning remotely on his own. Gerdes said that was when she noticed her son was suffering from anxiety and depression.
“He was left completely alone and right here, you know, ‘Log on to the computer’, and for him, that just wasn’t a good space,” Gerdes said. “He really didn’t have that sense of belonging and connection.”
When Gerdes realized it wasn’t the usual teenage angst, she couldn’t stay focused at work. She eventually quit teaching to work in human relations, hoping to have a better work-life balance.
“You are torn. You want to take care of your kids, but part of taking care of your kids is having a job that helps support them,” Gerdes said. “It was all I could do to hold on,” Gerdes said. “My mind was just spinning all the time, and my heart was just, you know, hurt and wondering how my son was doing.”
Fortunately, his boss at his new job noticed.
“He says, ‘Go home. Be home with your husband so you can take care of your son,” she recalls.
Unfortunately, this is not how most employees are treated. Almost half (45%) of parents felt they could lose their job if they left work to care for a child’s mental health.
“It’s really not a marginal problem. It’s something that happens,” said Marti Bledsoe Post, executive director of On Our Sleeves.
On Our Sleeves provides mental health care resources for parents, children and businesses. It aims to help parents and children start conversations about mental health and provides free tools and resources to improve children’s mental health.
The Bledsoe Post said companies have a lot to lose when they don’t help employees deal with their children’s mental health, as 75% of parents miss at least part of a work day a times a month and 50% feel unprepared for meetings because of their child’s mental illness. health.
“The modern workplace isn’t necessarily set up to support an employee through some sort of ongoing challenge,” Bledsoe Post said.
But she said the workplaces box be put in place to help.
“If we think as a society about what is a big issue that we face in this generation and the next generation, I think the mental health of our children is something that we can align ourselves with,” Bledsoe said. Post.
So what can companies do?
Bledsoe Post recommends companies offer counseling and access to mental health care resources to employees and their dependents. It may look like therapy sessions or subscription access to mental health apps. She said companies can also offer specific paid time off for mental health needs and embed mental health into corporate culture to de-stigmatize employees who talk about it.
“The more we talk about it, then hopefully the more opportunities employers will provide, you know, to provide more mental health help, but then people will also hopefully feel more at the comfortable talking about it and dealing with it,” Gerdes said.
The more Gerdes and his employer talked about mental health, the more his son blossomed. Her boss was able to connect her with different resources and offered her emotional support.
Today, Gerdes’ son is thriving at school and in sport.
“I feel so taken care of here. You have to be able to develop personally in order to then come and develop professionally,” said Gerdes.
Bledsoe Post said a big part of the big quit involves parents changing jobs to be more there for their kids, and she said companies can retain top talent when they recognize that too.
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