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Creating a Culture of Wellbeing and Respect: Supportive Workplaces and Our Mental Health

29 Mar 2019 — 3 min read

By Maggie G. Mortali, MPH, AFSP Senior Director, Interactive Screening Program


The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Partners with Soul Shop™ to Train Faith Leaders

Mar. 29, 2019 - Mental health conditions cause significant disability worldwide, with over 300 million people estimated to be affected by depression alone. What’s more is that many people struggling with depression or other mental health conditions receive no or inadequate treatment.

Because many adults spend a large portion of their day at work, workplaces have a unique opportunity to enhance their employee’s psychological wellbeing. Promoting mental health in the workplace is one of the most important steps an employer can take to improve an organization’s culture. Engaging employees in these efforts to create a workplace culture that promotes the importance and acceptability of help-seeking is even better.

Embedding mental health promotion into organizational policies and procedures is an impactful way for employers to send a message of care and concern for the health of their employees, and to demonstrate that mental and emotional wellbeing is key to individual and organizational success. Workplaces should also consider engaging employees in conversations about ways to improve organizational culture. Involving employees at all levels will help to create cultural shifts that build resiliency, encourage employee help-seeking, and enhance the overall wellbeing of the workplace.

Create a Workplace Culture That Encourages Help-Seeking

The first step to promoting a culture of mental health and wellbeing is to recognize that many employees may be resistant or hesitant to use mental health services, especially those provided by their employer. Even when employees know where to go for help, some remain hesitant to reach out, afraid to admit or acknowledge that they are stressed, anxious, or depressed. They may not recognize that what they are experiencing is a common, treatable health condition; have concerns about confidentiality; or fear sanctions for having a mental health condition. Building a culture of wellbeing paired with the availability of mental health services and programming, with specific efforts to reduce concerns, will encourage employees to utilize available mental health services.

Second, it’s important to recognize the value of peer support. Providing all employees with information about mental health resources and services helps to create a culture whereby employees encourage one another to get the help that they need.

Involve Employees in Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention Efforts

There are many ways organizations can engage employees in mental health promotion efforts. Workplaces can engage employees in mental health promotion in the following ways:

  • develop a ‘Workplace Wellness’ or ‘Culture Champions’ committee to support the planning and implementation of a comprehensive approach to workplace health and culture
  • create policies that support emotional wellness, and guidelines for job accommodations ranging from formal to informal/temporary (i.e., allow employees to allot time during business hours to participate in therapy and other mental health programs)
  • promote mental and behavioral health as part of overall corporate wellness campaigns
  • invite speakers from the community to staff meetings or provide opportunities for employees to learn more about mental health (i.e., Lunch & Learns)
  • provide educational training for managers to learn more about mental health conditions and available resources (i.e., Employee Assistance Programs)
  • offer employees mental health tools to educate them on health plans, coverage, and EAP
  • raise awareness for how employees can contribute to organizational culture by talking about wellness, mental health and safety in the workplace
  • share information on a variety of health-related topics including stress management, emotional intelligence, sleep hygiene, work/life coordination, and communication skill building (utilize employee talents to create posters, brochures, bulletin boards, etc.)
  • highlight local events and community resources related to mental health and encourage employee engagement

These are just a few ideas that highlight a proactive approach to overall health and wellbeing. Being creative in finding ways to engage employees in ways unique to your workplace can also help them feel supported and valued, and therefore more willing to seek the help they need. For successful culture shifts to happen, employees must take an honest look at all aspect of the work environment and make changes that promote healthy behaviors.

Key features of mental health promotion and programming for workplaces include reducing stigma associated with mental health distress and help seeking, improving access to mental health services such as EAP, and engaging employees in supporting workplace mental health promotion efforts. These efforts not only provide a pathway to elevate overall workforce mental health, but have the added potential to contribute to greater employee engagement and to the financial bottom line of an organization.

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