Pillar 1: Build AWARENESS and a Supportive Culture
Proven strategies for building a mentally healthy workplace include educating workers on mental health issues and taking action to foster a supportive workplace culture.
Train Your Management
One of the best ways to build awareness about workplace mental health is through manager education. So, empower your managers and supervisors to recognize warning signs and promote a culture of support and inclusion.
Whether delivered through live workshops, webinars or other formats, trainings should educate managers on recognizing signs of stress in employees and how to respond and support workers in their recovery. In addition, they should cover strategies for increasing one’s own mental health and wellbeing, which in turn fosters a positive work environment.
Remember to help develop your managers’ soft skills when relating to colleagues and their mental health needs. It takes strong communication skills and emotional intelligence to create a positive psychological environment that promotes mental wellbeing.
Other promising practices in this pillar include the following:
- Offer mentoring, coaching and peer support to your employees.
- Conduct mental health awareness training and inform employees of available resources.
- Provide mental health screening and access to secondary and tertiary treatment. (See Pillar 4)
- Provide flexible work arrangements such as flex-scheduling and telecommuting, as well as work-life balance programs.
- Offer fitness programs to improve employees’ physical health, which in turn promotes positive mental health. Include a range of activities from exercises to team sports to informative sessions on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including nutrition, ergonomic and fitness advice.
- Offer employees stress management training to develop relaxation, mindfulness and resiliency skills to manage workplace stressors and enhance mental wellbeing.
- Involve employees in decision-making and problem-solving processes. For instance, involve them in identifying potential problems that exacerbate stress within the work environment and in proactively implementing solutions to improve working conditions.
- To the extent possible, create a work environment that connects with the outside world through natural light, plants, etc., and provide a versatile, flexible range of spaces. Think about ways to meet employees’ needs for quiet and privacy, as well as spaces that promote positive collaborative work activities.
- Develop and implement anti-bullying policies.
- Sponsor awareness-building and anti-stigma campaigns. (See below)
The “Working Well” Toolkit
Several awareness-building resources can be accessed through the Center for Workplace Mental Health. An initiative of the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, the Center offers a range of tools to help employers create a more supportive workplace environment for people with mental health conditions.
Its “Working Well Toolkit” features lists of exemplary practices, case studies and free, turnkey programs you can implement in your own business, including:
- ICU Program: An anti-stigma campaign developed by DuPont designed to foster a workplace culture that supports emotional health. Its content has been donated to the Center for Workplace Mental Health for all to use.
- #IWILLLISTEN: An award-winning social media-based public service campaign designed to create awareness of the prevalence of mental illnesses and reduce stigma. Employers can bring this campaign to their companies through #IWILLLISTEN days.
- Right Direction: A creative educational initiative developed by Lundbeck designed to reduce stigma, motivate employees and their families to seek help when needed, and provide employers with appropriate support tools and resources. The initiative offers employers a wealth of free, turnkey resources ranging from content for intranet sites to template PowerPoint presentations.
- Stamp Out Stigma: An initiative spearheaded by the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW) to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders.
- In Our Own Voice: This NAMI program involves a 90-minute group interaction led by two group facilitators with serious mental illness in recovery. Facilitators present a video, share their experience and lead discussions.
- Live Your Life Well Campaign: Mental Health America’s (MHA) Live Your Life Well Campaign provides users with 10 tools to achieve wellness. In addition, MHA offers workplace wellness/health surveys through their workplace wellness portal.
- NAMI StigmaFree: The NAMI StigmaFree program promotes acceptance and actively challenges social stereotypes. Individuals, companies, organizations and others can all take the pledge to learn more about mental illness, to see a person for who they are and to take action on mental health issues.
- Working Minds: Offers culturally responsive, comprehensive and sustained strategies to help workplaces make mental health promotion and suicide prevention health and safety priorities. Free resources include “A Manager’s Guide to Suicide Postvention in the Workplace: 10 Action Steps for Dealing with the Aftermath of Suicide,” workplace self-assessment tools and industry strategy resources.