5 ideas for Mental Health Month at your company

Discussing mental health at work takes a lot of sensitivity. Fortunately, October is mental health month so it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness about mental health and provide support. Even though 1 in 5 of your employees is statistically going to have a mental illness this year, most of them don't conceptualise themselves as having a mental health problem.

The language they use is "tired, overwhelmed with work and home issues, ready to go home at 5, unmotivated" so consider those in your messaging and use phrases like “learning to cope with whatever is in your life”, “wellbeing”, “dealing with uncertainty” or “emotional health.”

The single most powerful thing I've seen…

… for improving company culture around mental health is a senior person who is willing to disclose that they have struggled with their own mental health. This message as an email or a video does more to reduce stigma than most other interventions combined. If there is anyone who speaks publicly about this then it is a good message to send out to the team at this time. Please contact me via our website if you'd like advice on this type of message as it needs to be managed with sensitivity.

Quick wins:

  1. If you have a wellbeing portal then create a promotion around the content and hand pick some things that you think might be relevant. Surveys show that the most popular wellbeing topic in most companies is improving sleep.

  1. Contact your EAP and consult to run a promotion of their services in conjunction with mental health month

  2. Within most teams, there is someone who is acting in the role of being the informal support person or mentor that people go to for support. If you can identify those people and make it easier for them to have the conversations they are already having then this can provide effective short term support. Remind this group that they don't need to act as a therapist but to refer others to EAP. Giving permission to check in with others is important as many of them don't see it as something that should be done in work hours.

  3. Create a series of emails or blog posts from leadership that tie into mental health month. Our experience is that most workers who are in a high risk range are feeling burdened by work demands; however, they understand that this is the nature of the work and aren't expecting things to change a lot - just acknowledgment of the work they do and the challenges they face. In that context an acknowledgement of the difficulty is seen as validating in most cases. 

    Medium to Long Term Actions:

    The below are recommendations from the recent whitepaper from the University of Tasmania on managing mental health in the workplace available here

    Priorities for preventing harm:

    1. Develop knowledge, skills and resources for psychological health and safety at all levels in workplaces.

    2. Require and support employers to develop a psychological health and safety strategy, policy and procedures.

    3. Develop emotional and social intelligence in leaders and managers. 

    Priorities for promoting the positive:

    4. Design jobs to promote positive mental health.

    5. Provide training and development in positive approaches.

    6. Assess and promote the strengths of individuals and teams. 

    Priorities for managing mental illness:

    7. Undertake stigma reduction and mental health literacy programs to foster a work environment where people are able to seek help early without adverse consequences in the workplace.

    8. Ensure clear roles, responsibilities and processes for supporting employees with mental illness.

    9. Implement flexible work practices to facilitate accommodation of individual needs.

Jay SpenceMental Health