“Multifamily experienced an improvement in mental health last year, but the number of people who reported less stress in 2023 fell to nearly the same level that multifamily experienced during the pandemic, according to the National Apartment Association 2023 Mental and Emotional Health Study.”
By Stephanie Anderson
If you’re in crisis, help is available by calling or texting the 988 Suicide & Crisis Hotline, where trained counselors are available 24/7. Call or text to 988 or visit 988lifeline.org to chat with someone.
In the U.S., there are more than 45,000 deaths by suicide every year, making it the 12th leading cause of death. There is a mental health crisis in America, and it affects more than 50 million people and nearly 55% are receiving no treatment. While addressing mental health in multifamily and commercial real estate is always important, the need for it is highlighted during September, which is National Suicide Prevention Month.
Multifamily experienced an improvement in mental health last year when more people reported a decrease in their stress levels, according to the National Apartment Association 2023 Mental and Emotional Health Study. Unfortunately, the number of people who reported less stress in 2023 fell to nearly the same level that multifamily experienced during the pandemic. NAA utilizes an Agreement/Importance algorithm to score stress levels. For 2021, that score for “Overall, I feel less stressed than I did a year ago” was 56. It increased to 63 in 2022 and has now dropped back to 57. The lower the score, the fewer people agree with the statement.
Now is the time for owners and operators to better understand the mental health challenges of their teams and utilize the available resources to help not just their employees, but their residents as well.
Mental Health in Multifamily
The statistics on mental health in multifamily are not much better than the national figures. Stress about heavy workload was reported by 40% of respondents in the study and an equal number stated they had taken time off work because of stress. Sadly, 28% reported not even knowing if their company offered mental health assistance.
Some of the stressors that respondents shared included the need to work outside normal hours and on their off days to keep pace with their workload; too few employees for the required work; pressure to ignore a work-life balance and put their company first; and companies making them feel guilty for taking personal days. One of the most alarming concerns expressed in the study was the fact that companies will provide a mental health program but fail to support actions that would reduce employee stress.
This is where as an industry we have an opportunity to walk the walk by implementing regular mental health training, encouraging mental health checkups, sharing resources with employees during high-stress periods, along with communication and follow-up with employees about how they are doing. Owners and operators should also evaluate the efficiencies and technology of communities in their portfolio to locate any missed opportunities to reduce stress.
Addressing Mental Health Concerns
Fortunately for the multifamily industry, there are numerous resources and training to help address mental health issues before they become a larger issue, as well as help deal with situations that are more critical.
Mental Health First Aid Instructors: Identifying, understanding and responding to mental health issues is key to providing effective assistance. The Mental Health First Aid program is an eight-hour, skills-based training program developed by the National Council for Mental Well-Being. The course is considered to be one of the elite mental health programs in the nation, even receiving recognition by the U.S. Senate. More than 2.6 million people have taken the course since its introduction in 2001. The NAA recently sponsored 12 instructors who can be connected to multifamily communities for help with mental health needs.
On-Demand Webinars and Articles: In addition to information on responders, NAA also provides an extensive library of on-demand webinars that address a wide range of mental health challenges, including hoarding, coping and managing onsite challenges, burnout and self-care, dealing with trauma, maintenance team stress and challenges in today’s workforce. Articles that examine the stigma surrounding mental health, important things to know and mental health in the workplace are also available through this resource.
Online Resources: A catalog of mental health training courses designed to help all levels of employees. The NAA site provides courses on Visto (list starts below webinars and articles) that cover stress management, using empathy to connect with others, understanding and managing emotions and more.
Mental Health Policy: Grace Hill offers clients the ability to craft mental health policies and has even designed a best-practice mental health policy template to help multifamily companies create one regarding their employees. Grace Hill has partnered with NAA to make this free template available to all.
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Mental Health Best Practices Concerning Residents
NAA has a helpful guide for dealing with mental health issues and multifamily residents, which offers steps and recommendations during a mental health crisis. Here are a few considerations for teams to aid in suicide prevention:
Develop a Preventative Individual Crisis Plan: Management should develop a plan with a case manager or mental health skill builder before a crisis occurs or is imminent based on the individual needs of your organization This should include a way for a resident near or in-crisis to get assistance.
Put a Plan in Place for a Crisis Situation and Put Safety First: A plan of action is needed during a mental health crisis in order to ensure a swift and appropriate resolution. This may include evacuation plans, the layout of the leasing office and providing exits for teams. Steps for staff to calmly engage agitated residents should be spelled out. This would also include emergency contacts and resources.
Become Familiar with Mental Health Diagnosis: Managers should become familiar with the symptoms of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Become Familiar with Resources in Your Community: Become familiar with your local, regional and state mental health agencies. They will also be able to provide assistance in dealing with a crisis.
Regularly Train Staff: Make sure that your onsite teams are always up-to-date on your policies and plans regarding mental health, as well as information and resources.
Multifamily cannot afford to only address mental health during the months it’s observed. Effective change will happen only if the multifamily industry addresses these issues every day. Take the time to understand the issues facing your teams and those that residents are dealing with. We owe it to each other to offer assistance whenever possible, provide ample resources, recognize the warning signs and bring an end to this ongoing crisis.
About the Author
Stephanie Anderson is Senior Director of Communication and Social Media for Grace Hill. She is an advocate for the implementation of mental health policy and access to resources. Stephanie is a certified Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructor, as well as a member of the National Apartment Association Operations Committee and NAA’s Mental Health Committee.
About Grace Hill
Grace Hill provides industry-leading SaaS technology solutions designed to make a positive impact in real estate and improve the lives of people where they work and live. Harnessing years of real estate experience and the understanding that people are better together, Grace Hill helps owners and operators increase property performance, reduce operating risk and grow top talent. More than 500,000 professionals from over 1,700 companies rely on Grace Hill’s talent performance solutions covering policy, training, assessment, survey, and data-driven insights. Visit us at gracehill.com or on LinkedIn.