BY ALLISON SCHRUBB, COURTNEY MCILVOY, AND KAMRYN SCHROPP
An employee wellness program is more than just a benefit for your people, it’s a benefit to the business as a whole. Studies have shown that supporting your employees’ mental health can increase your organization’s engagement and productivity. Here are some facts:
- 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness (Source: National Institute of Mental Health)
- Depression and anxiety alone cost the global economy an estimated USD $1 trillion in lost productivity (Source: World Health Organization)
- For every $1 U.S. dollar put into scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders there is a return of $4 U.S. dollars to improved health and productivity (Source: World Health Organization)
Sendero recently observed Mental Health Awareness Month for the first time and hosted a panel of local mental wellness professionals with diverse backgrounds, furthering the conversation around mental health by promoting education and awareness and creating a network of support.
Here’s how you too can launch a mental wellness initiative at your company:
Sendero’s approach to mental health has two parts: promoting awareness through education and providing accessible support resources. Mental illness is highly stigmatized, so we created the theme “Let’s Talk About It” to help our employees feel more comfortable speaking up.
When launching your own mental health initiative, it’s important to achieve buy-in by involving employees in the planning process. Sendero has an informal group of mental health advocates in addition to our Wellness Committee, which focuses its activities on physical, social, mental, and emotional health.
Use Your Network
Once you’ve solidified your company’s approach and identified key employees who will carry it out, it’s time to find resources to support the initiative. The Human Resources department is a great place to start since they may have connections through your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and/or benefit plans. Additionally, we recommend reaching out to your local chapters of Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), two nonprofits happy to provide speakers and educational resources. Lastly, you can ask employees to reach into their personal networks, such as an organization contact, physician, or professor.
When planning your mental health activities, keep it interactive. Here’s what Sendero did for Mental Health Awareness Month:
- Hosted NAMI speaker
- Hosted four mental health professionals for panel discussion
- Coordinated multiple volunteer opportunities with Mental Health America of Greater Dallas
- Created a bingo card containing self-care events/activities that employees completed during the month of May
- Published a Mental Health Support Resource Guide that employees can reference and contribute to
Whatever your team decides to do, making it interactive and engaging is bound to capture your employees’ attention.
Talk About It
To keep the momentum going long after Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s important to establish open communication between management and employees. We suggest incorporating mental health topics into your management training. Consider questions such as:
- Do the managers feel comfortable discussing mental health with employees? Why or why not?
- Do the managers know what mental health resources are available through your company?
- At what point should a manager involve HR in these discussions?
Anchor in the Culture
At Sendero, we’ve fully transitioned Mental Health Awareness Month to our Wellness Committee as an annual initiative. Don’t have a formal wellness initiative at your company? That’s okay! Use your original group of advocates and/or HR department to serve as mental health champions and communicate the importance for years to come.
From left to right: Ruth Farrar, COO; David L. Henderson, MD; Amanda-Rae Garcia, MBA; Jennifer W. Bradford, PhD; Elsie Johnson
Sendero’s approach to mental health has two parts: promoting awareness through education and providing accessible support resources.