The Importance of Mental Health in the Apartment Industry: A Lesson From Simone Biles

It's time for the apartment industry to focus on good mental health practices.

Jessica Fiur, Managing Editor

Jessica Fiur, Managing Editor

Simone Biles won six medals in the 2016 Rio Olympics—five of which were gold. According to USA Today, Biles was projected to win five gold medals at this year’s games in Tokyo.

Simone Biles is one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. Actually, she might be considered one of the greatest athletes of all time.

And on Tuesday, Biles withdrew from the Olympic games.

It was shocking news. After all, athletes work all their lives to get to the Olympics. And for a favorite, the GOAT, to voluntarily withdraw from such a prestigious competition, well, that just doesn’t happen.

What’s even more shocking, however, is the reason she withdrew:

After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in order to focus on her mental health. —USA Gymnastics said in a statement.

She’s looking out for her mental health! This is so, so important. And, think of the courage that was involved in this decision. Not only will she not medal, Biles will have people all over the world commenting about how she’s weak, how she let her team down (though she stayed at the competition to encourage her teammates, becoming their “head cheerleader,” according to ESPN), how she can’t cut it.

Simone Biles at 2016 Rio Olympics. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Not to mention that there’s still a stigma surrounding mental health issues. According to the American Psychiatric Association, more than half of people with mental illness don’t do anything about it because they are afraid they’ll be treated differently or lose their jobs.

But there shouldn’t be a stigma. Mental health issues are extremely common. Research from Johns Hopkins reveals that “an estimated 26 percent of Americans ages 18 and older—about 1 in 4 adults—suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.”

And we’re not in “any given year” right now. We’ve all been under tremendous stress and pressure over the past year and a half. According to KFF, 4 in 10 US adults have reported anxiety or depression during the pandemic.

This is something we should certainly think about in the apartment industry, especially when it comes to the on-site and resident-facing staff. There are many ways the industry as a whole can be more supportive of its employees to promote good mental health practices.

One place to start would be to encourage employees to actually take their vacation days. According to reporting by The Washington Post in 2019, 55 percent of Americans did not use all their paid time off, leaving 768 million days of vacation days untouched. This can lead to burnout.

Multifamily employees should be encouraged to take their vacation days—they’re there for a reason, after all. And employees should be able to take them without saying why. They might be less likely to take the time they need to look after themselves if they have to tell their employer that it’s for a mental health day.

Property managers, landlords and even the leasing staff in particular, might feel like they always have to be available to residents to answer questions or assist with any issues. Many give out their personal numbers and think they always have to be reachable. But constantly being on the clock does not allow people to relax and come back to the job refreshed and ready to tackle the day.

Of course, emergencies must be taken care of right away, especially if someone could get hurt or property could be damaged. But for non-emergencies, the property manager should be able to get back to the resident during office hours. And employees shouldn’t have to feel implored to answer every single call and email and text from residents when they’re off duty. There needs to be a line so that multifamily employees can take care of themselves. And they should be encouraged to do so.

Because, as Simone Biles showed us, it’s crucial to prioritize our mental health.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Post your comments on our Facebook page or send a tweet to @MHNOnline or @jfiur.

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