The first step to reducing the stigma around mental health struggles? Understanding how common they are. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 21% of U.S. adults struggled with a mental illness in the past year, including 25.8% of females and 15.8% of males over the age of 18. If you are struggling, you’re not alone. “You would never guess I had depression,” says Bill Overton, PCAM, of Desert Resort Management in Palm Desert, Calif. “We don’t talk about our weakness. We don’t talk about our mistakes.” Furthermore, he explained, the community management profession selects for high-performing depressives and people-pleasers. “Nobody thinks you’re depressed when you get stuff done.”
Mental health struggles have a financial cost. The faster an organization burns through employees, the more often it must bring in new hires. Turnover is expensive. The human cost is even higher. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among men between the ages of 20 and 30. And this is only one way stress contributes to health crises. Stress is a known contributor to many serious health complications, though this data is harder to quantify. “Men don’t talk about it,” Overton expresses. “Successful men don’t talk about it. A lot of us are depressed.”
This industry, like many others, rewards high performance. Taking on the toughest assignments and refusing to ask for help is rewarded. The cost of performing so high, when doing so means ignoring one’s own health, is burnout. Depending on the severity, consequences can range from inconvenient to deadly.
How can managers learn to handle both the workload and mental health? Start by creating a completely different level of awareness surrounding mental health. Everybody’s mental health is equally important, and everybody needs to take regular care of themselves to maintain it. Some have struggled with mental illness for their entire lives; some will develop mental illness later due to external or internal factors; others will not face mental illness at all, but we all struggle with stress.
Every person owes it to themselves to learn what they need and to prioritize giving themselves those things. Every organization owes it to their employees to restructure working life, leaving room and support for self-care.
For some people, this might mean getting a mental health counselor, spending more time outdoors, getting more sleep, exercising more, adopting an emotional support animal, taking more time off work, opening up to a trusted friend or family member, or a combination of these. Knowing we are not alone, taking the time to listen to, support, and care for each other, is an excellent first step in prioritizing mental well-being.
“People change the subject a lot when someone tries to discuss their struggles,” Overton says. “Instead of just saying, ‘feel better,’ let’s talk about it.”
CAI’s new publication helps board members and managers use compassion and empathy to manage resident mental health and conflict. Visit, the CAI Press bookstore for more information.
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Hazel Siff is the associate editor of Community Manager newsletter.