This World Mental Health Day on October 10th, take the opportunity to raise awareness about mental health by championing the cause in your workplace. Doing so will help to reduce the stigma that is often associated with common mental health problems, and encourage your community to care for their emotional well-being and seek help for themselves or those who need it.
There are countless ways that you can talk about and advocate for good mental health practices in your workplace. Whether you choose to dedicate a day, a week, or a month, the following activities will help you support your employees and their loved ones.
Openness and transparency are key when organizing a conversation about mental health. To raise awareness this World Mental Health Day, send out an email that reaches everyone in your company. In the email, share some statistics that bring light to the wide spectrum of mental health and those impacted by suicide, depression, anxiety, and other associated conditions. There’s a lot that your employees may not know. You’ll be arming them with facts, while also addressing that mental health is a shared experience which affects us all.
Include a list of resources for coping with a mental health problem. Promote your own employee assistance program if you have one (such as related health benefits and counseling services available to employees), or search for globally recognized organizations that will encourage people to seek help and/or treatment. Here are some suggestions:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Screenings from Mental Health America
- The Trevor Project: How to Help Someone in Crisis
- National Alliance on Mental Health
- Seize the Awkward
- To Write Love on Her Arms
- Taking a Mental Health Day
Share a mental health calendar with your employees to showcase the upcoming programming at your office, as well as other local events that aren’t sponsored by your company but that people may still like to attend.
Speak plainly and seek to understand
Because of the stigma that still surrounds mental illness, people may be hesitant to speak up or reach out. It may help to give them a voice through subject matter experts, or individuals in your community who can speak to what it’s like to live with a mental health problem.
Start by finding a mental health professional to come into your office for an educational talk or presentation. What are the risk factors for various mental health problems, and how are they diagnosed and treated? What signs and symptoms should a person look out for? How can they help themselves or someone close to them? Encourage your coworkers to anonymously submit questions beforehand that the speaker will address.
Ask for volunteers to share their own experiences at your next All Hands meeting to bring people together and normalize what you’ve learned. These experiences may be hard to hear, but are important to raising the level of understanding. You may also find these are stories of recovery that turn out to be positive and empowering. Get people talking so that they can learn from one another, and put faces and names in place of the statistics. Teams can write each other uplifting notes that can be read as shoutouts at the end of your meeting, to better express empathy and garner a sense of support.
Plan a workshop
When thinking about what types of events and activities you’d like to offer at your office on World Mental Health Day, consider taking a holistic approach and hold workshops that focus on physical, mental, and emotional health. These might include a nutrition workshop (as the foods you eat often affect how you feel), meditation and mindfulness sessions (which can reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase the ability to focus), or an essential oils workshop (which may improve sleep and enhance your mood).
Take a walk
A breath of fresh air, the warm sun on your face, the crunch of leaves under your feet… a bit of exercise can do wonders to improve your mood. Consider setting up regular walking groups for your employees to help them step away from their desks and stay active. Find some enthusiastic group leaders, who get to choose the route or topic of conversation, and venture out on 30 minute walks during the lunch hour. This is an activity that even remote employees can be encouraged to take part in!
Rally the pups
One word: puppies. Playing with dogs and other animals has been shown to decrease the production of the stress hormone cortisol, while increasing levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin. That sounds like a great combination! If you have a dog-friendly office, block off some time on the calendar for people to meet and play with the resident pups to de-stress during the work day. If your office doesn’t typically accept pets, make an exception for the day, or look for an organization in your area that can provide certified therapy dogs for stress relief.
Coordinate a volunteer activity for employees who want to give back to the community. Research what’s happening in your area, such as walks for suicide prevention, that enable you to be a part of the larger movement. Let your employees know that you’ll be participating and give them the opportunity to sign up and join the rest of the team.
If there aren’t any events near you, create your own! An employee bake-off is a great way to promote camaraderie while raising money for the cause. Have everyone bake a themed dessert and judge the tastiest creations. Employees should make a donation for the honor of sampling and scoring the sweets.
Give everyone space
Peace and quiet may be all you need to relax during a hectic or otherwise overwhelming work day. Spruce up the office library with comfortable pillows, blankets, or bean bags and play some soothing music to boost a sense of calm. If you don’t have an office library, create a comfortable and dedicated space for employees to take some alone time during the day. A nap isn’t entirely out of the question!
A simple way to show your support for World Mental Health Day is by wearing the color associated with the cause. For mental health, that color is green. Pass out green ribbon pins, or ask that your employees wear green in observance of the day. Gather everyone who participates together, and take a picture to share with the rest of the company or even post on your social media page. Spreading the word may encourage others to take action, which brings you closer to creating lasting change.
Addressing mental health is one step towards ensuring your employees feel safe and supported at work. Keep the conversation going even after World Mental Health Day has passed, and ask for honest feedback on how you can make your community even more accommodating to those with mental health needs.