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April 21, 2022

Building a mentally healthy organization

Erika Tollefson, Bruce Morton

We all have mental health. A short sentence, with a big impact. Co-workers, managers and leaders are all people who vary along the spectrum that is mental health.

Mental Health America’s Mind the Workplace 2021 Report (1) shares information about employee mental health and how support from the workplace is crucial to overall employee safety and well-being. According to this report, 9 in 10 employees share that their workplace stress affects their mental health and nearly 3 in 5 employees feel that their employer does not provide a safe environment for employees who live with mental illness.

What does support from the workplace look like?

Leadership modeling self-care. Self-care can mean setting boundaries, taking breaks, integrating conversations about mental health and more. When leaders promote and model this, employees are more likely to do the same. When employees also have the ability to discuss stressful situations at work with their leaders, there is a positive correlation with healthy workplace scores from the Mind the Workplace 2021 Report (1).

Messaging about mental health from supervisors up to the CEO is vital.
The message needs to be consistent and credible while ensuring employees know that mental health is a major priority for the organization. Talking about mental health is part of the solution in breaking down the walls of stigma that surround mental health. Integrate these communications through various channels throughout the year and in bite size bits (2).

Utilizing available company benefits and investing in new ones.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and behavioral health solutions are vital to supporting every employee in an organization. It is one thing to have resources, but another to promote and ensure employee and leadership understanding. Collaborating with benefits providers and the Marsh McLennan Agency (MMA) team to educate all levels in the organization can enhance the utilization of services offered in the workplace.

What role does education play in building a culture of mental health?

Education is a core pillar of psychological safety. Psychological safety supports mental health and encourages transparency for all employees without fear of repercussion (2). When leaders (e.g. HR, supervisor, etc.) are trained to recognize signs and symptoms, understand resources, know how to respond in a crisis, and are aware of the barriers to seeking mental health support, we can see more trust from employees.  These leaders need to be visible, vocal and vulnerable when it comes to talking about mental health.

Courses like Mental Health First AidQPR, and Psychological First Aid are a few examples of courses that leaders in an organization can take to enhance their understanding and grow in their empathy. There are others courses also offer by your local National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). If you are not sure where to start, reach out to your MMA representative to learn more about your options.