How can employees promote mental health in the workplace?
Employees can play a meaningful role in mental health education and outreach among their peers in addition to the employer’s efforts. Promoting mental health in the workplace needs to take place at all levels and throughout the year until it becomes a part of the company culture.
Include mental health at orientation. From the day one, employers can set the precedent that mental health is a priority. Employers can address mental health in the benefits discussion, their mission and vision, and workplace culture as part of orientation. In addition, the employer can provide a mental health resource guide for internal and community supports for new employees.
Mark major awareness campaigns on the calendar and celebrate them. Mental Health Month takes place in May every year. National Suicide Prevention Week occurs in September. Mental Illness Awareness Week, World Mental Health Day, and National Depression Screening Day are acknowledged in October. Follow on social media or subscribe to the email list of a mental health organization like MHA to access free resources you can distribute to employees during awareness campaigns.
Establish a mental health team. The employer should consider establishing a team, work group, employee resource group, or salaried position to identify and address concerns with workplace culture and promote mental health awareness, education, and available resources to employees. How employees perceive their workplace is said to be heavily impacted by their organizational rank, with senior and mid-level employees holding more positive views on workplace culture. The team should be made up of members who provide differing perspectives in the workplace including, but not limited to, supervisors, junior employees, Human Resources, and executive leadership. Smaller employers may have to designate one person to play this role.
Train managers regularly. Direct managers are often the people who most regularly interface with employees. If these managers promote mental health effectively, employees will feel more comfortable sharing their own mental health experiences and concerns. This training should encourage managers to speak appropriately about mental health, avoid discriminating against people with mental health conditions, and promote good work-life balance for their employees.
Senior leadership can model open communication. Messages about mental health are more meaningful when they come from all levels of a company, including senior leadership. Encourage the C-suite executives or others in high managerial positions to talk openly about their own personal experiences with mental health or substance use. Messages can be shared during awareness campaigns or busy seasons with leadership directly addressing anxiety and stress in the workplace.
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