In the late ’90s, Liz Hilton Segel was managing a group at consulting firm McKinsey & Company when she noticed that something was off with one of her team members. They were working around the clock on a fast-paced project, and his work was uncharacteristically missing the mark. He confided that he was in the midst of a depressive episode and needed to take a break from work—immediately. “He literally left the office that day, at 5:00 on a Wednesday,” Hilton Segel recalls. “And I had just completely missed it. I could have seen what was going on—I could have seen it in his physical appearance, in the way he spoke. But I didn’t.”

The experience has stuck with Hilton Segel, who now is the global leader of McKinsey’s industry practices. As the issue of mental health in the workplace has gained more attention in recent years, Hilton Segel wants to make sure that employees have the support and interventions they need and that employers are taking the right steps to address these issues in the workplace. “We need to teach people to look for it, to ask the question, to check if someone’s okay,” she says. “This is about changing people’s lives.”


Mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, aren’t new to the workplace. For as long as there have been W-2s, workers have struggled to balance their mental health and well-being with the rigors of their jobs. But in the past two years, the number of workers grappling with mental health issues has risen sharply. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 30% of adults have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression—a nearly threefold increase from before the pandemic. “Every employer has seen the rise in mental health issues,” says Katy George, McKinsey’s chief people officer. “We’ve seen a whole set of depression, anxiety, and isolation issues go up significantly.”

Failing to support employee mental health can be costly for companies. Productivity can suffer, and talent can head for the exits—sometimes abruptly. And companies with a reputation for failing to support their employees’ mental health may find it harder to recruit top talent. By contrast, investing in employees’ mental health offers plenty of upside for companies. For starters, those investments can provide a considerable …….


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