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American Heart Association Encourages Workers to Discuss Mental Health with Employers

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- A national study done by the American Heart Association found that 76% of employees reported having struggled with an issue that affected their mental health. The study also stated that 42% of employees nationwide have been diagnosed with a mental illness but 63% of those employees have yet to tell their bosses.

This led the local AHA to hold its second annual Iowa Workplace Health Symposium. One of the goals for this symposium is to get professionals comfortable with having an honest conversation about mental health.

“We always encourage the work with their EAP program their Employee Assistance Program, build that relationship with that support. Always stay connected with their HR team because they have all that resources there for them,” Community Impact Director, Wesley Franklin said.

Franklin encourages employers to listen with open ears to the concerns of their staff. The American Heart Association says actionable strategies for employers when addressing employee mental health are paying attention to positive leadership and management styles while stimulating a supportive atmosphere among employees. This can not only lead to staff with better mental health but more productive staff as well.

“So it's really nice that employees are taking that time to invest in their employees around mental health,” Franklin said. “Also their nutritional physical components as well, they say healthier employees equals better productivity down the way or fewer sick days.

During this symposium, AHA Des Moines will be educating employees on discussing their mental illness at work, ways employees can minimize stress in the workplace, and how employers can be accommodating with resources. For instance, Franklin said AHA provides food and beverage kits for companies to provide employees with healthier options while at work.

“We try to encourage the employer to bring in those healthier food options like bananas or fruits, so we can have that easily available for the employee so we can make the healthy choice the best choice for them,” Franklin said.

Franklin said it’s always good to get up and take a walk with a friend or coworker to blow off some steam. He also suggested downloading fitness apps and doing fun challenges with coworkers. The local American Heart Association office is currently doing a ‘12 Days of Fitness’ challenge where every day they have to do a different exercise. They believe engaging in activities like this can create positive energy in the office, improve mental health and a healthy lifestyle.

The symposium will be held on December 12th at Des Moines University. The event includes lunch, local vendors, networking opportunities and is free to the public. To learn more or register for the event, visit www.heart.org/IowaWorkplaceHealth

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