New York, NY – It looks like the Department of Labor is making mental health a priority in the workplace. A few weeks ago, during Mental Health Awareness Month, the DOL released a YouTube webinar on workers wellbeing called “Building Mental Health-Friendly Workplaces.” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh’s connection with mental health and long-term recovery is both personal and public. He talks about his challenges with alcoholism earlier in his life in the webinar, followed by a discussion about “The Four A’s” — Awareness, Accommodations, Assistance and Access.

Ben Kimmel.

The Department of Labor appears to be interested in ensuring U.S. workers are supported with access to treatment and are connected to the appropriate levels of care, thereby allowing workers to be on the job and continue to contribute to their community. Efforts include exploring ways of maintaining healthy work environments, so workers can remain mentally fit and benefit employers who want to keep their staff on the job. 

The webinar includes discussions about work/life programs and the importance of EAP (Employee Assistance Programs) to benefit the goals of a stronger and healthier workforce by connecting workers with specialists who can provide free consultations and directives to connect workers with daily caregivers. 

Employee Benefits Security Administration Acting Secretary Ali Khawar and Office of Disability Employment Policy Assistant Secretary Taryn Williams, also offered their insights on employee benefits and emotional safety in the workplace. 

Persistent negative stereotypes surrounding mental health issues continue to be major roadblocks to getting help. Most people who struggle with mental illness are afraid to reach out for help. DOL efforts to normalize and humanize real-life mental health issues and to promote safer worker environments, are welcomed, indeed — and should go a long way to helping workers navigate the healthcare system while keeping their dignity intact.

It is important to note the economic cost of untreated mental illness in the U.S. is astounding — over $225 billion In 2019. And that was before Covid.

Calculate that with the challenges we’ve faced over the last two years, add the effects of the pandemic, social-distancing, plus the financial strains — and add the news of violence and escalated crime rates — and it’s no wonder the cost of mental health is so high. 

Fortunately, there is a plan in place and employee benefits that can support recovery while helping us maintain our dignity and employed in the process. 

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as an Author, Writer on, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Wellbeing and DEI Content Provider, Certified Addiction and Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate.  Ben can be reached at


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