Supporting employee mental health, the time is now!

We just concluded our 71st Mental Health Awareness Month. Every year in May, the goal is to educate the public, provide support, fight stigma and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.

Over the last couple of months, we have seen and heard the importance of mental health awareness and self-care as the COVID-19 epidemic forced us to deal with the realities of social distancing, remote work and forced isolation. With the summer upon us, the corporate sector has an opportunity to take advantage of a climate for change to meet the demands of today’s workforce.

Now, more than ever, it’s essential to educate managers and employees alike about mental health resources and the importance of nurturing an environment of openness at work around mental health. It’s essential to support any employee’s effort to seek treatment for a mental health issue, but it takes consistent effort and work to change a culture that is supportive to employee wellness and mental health.

Here are four strategies that any size of company can incorporate with little to no investment associated with them, in order to help cultivate a culture of empathy and support.

1) Make sure employees know it’s safe for them to discuss and address mental health-related issues.

• By providing safe environments, both in person and online, to discuss and educate on mental health-related topics, psychological safety and wellness.   

• A written mental-health nondiscrimination statement in the employee handbook.

• Allow employees more flexibility in their work schedule who are suffering from grief and loss or a diagnosed mental illness. These can include working nontraditional hours, compressed work weeks and telecommuting.

2) Sharing stories across all levels of personal experience, lived experience (living with a diagnosed mental illness) and recovery.

• This precedent should be set by executives, managers and other company leaders.

• When leaders are vulnerable and share their experiences, or the experiences of those closest to them, it helps create transparency and acceptance at work.

• Sharing stories makes it easier for employees to ask for help when they need it, these stories can help take the fear out of their own disclosure.

3) Educate employees and managers about mental illness.

• Promote mental health through in-service trainings, panel discussions and workshops on mental health awareness and how to recognize signs of stress and poor mental health.

• Train managers and supervisors to be aware of signs of mental health issues and how to respond to them appropriately.

• Strive for a supportive work culture by addressing mental health regularly, using national recognition days and months on the calendar.

4) Make wellness a priority.

• Establish and promote an employee assistance program.

• Encourage work-life balance. Exercise, healthy eating and participation in leisure activities improve mental health.

• Wellness programs can bring employees together and foster a friendly competitiveness in the office.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the workplace is an optimal setting to create a culture of health because:

• Communication structures are already in place.

• Programs and policies come from one central team.

• Social support networks are available.

• Employers can offer incentives to reinforce healthy behaviors.

• Employers can use data to track progress and measure

the effects.

It’s critical that companies recognize that mental health is just as important as physical health. Companies who invest and prioritize mental health and self-care can help create a healthier work culture for their people, improve employee retention and engagement, and cultivate the type of work environment that will attract top talent.

Ian Adair is an expert in leadership, fundraising and nonprofit management; and a sought-after speaker for nonprofit conferences around the country. He is the executive director of the Gracepoint Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Gracepoint, servings more than 30,000 individuals in our community each year seeking mental health, homelessness and addiction services. To learn more, visit

You May Also Like

Four big takeaways to grow your business

Every year, more than 1,000 of the world’s top sales, leadership and management professionals gather in Orlando for what we call the Sandler Sales & Leadership Summit, where we network, share ideas, celebrate each other’s successes and participate in sessions led by top Sandler training professionals from the United States and around the world. The

The Etiquette of Enthusiasm

Have you ever had an idea so strong you felt like you could not wait to share it? It seems most of us will agree, publicly at least, that we don’t like a “Donnie Downer” (surely you can appreciate the reason we don’t say “Debbie Downer”…), and yet very rarely do we think our enthusiasm

Is your selling process aligned with your buyer’s journey?

What process do your buyers follow before deciding to buy?  Regardless of the person’s title, product, service or industry, we can map out a clear progression from the time a prospect is considering a purchase until the contract is signed and payment is made. The stages of the buyer’s journey that salespeople need to understand

The etiquette of receiving difficult feedback professionally

You might agree that most unsolicited feedback is perceived as criticism. And, with that in mind, you also may agree that it takes constructive, useful feedback to grow. So, what happens when you receive an idea, criticism, feedback or a “You know, you really should …”? It is important to realize most people—not all—absolutely do

Other Posts

5 metrics to include in your goal-setting playbook for the new year

The first month of the year is a classic time for business owners, and sales professionals, to identify and focus on their most important personal, and professional, goals. We’ve noticed, though, that the goal-setting behavior of an organization’s leaders during the month of January tends to have the biggest bottom-line impact on the year, as

How to finish the year strong

The holiday season is already upon us and you might be wondering: “Where did 2022 go?” Maybe you and your company had a great year, blowing through your billing projections and setting revenue records. Or you might be asking yourself: “What went wrong and how do I prevent it from happening again?” But, before you

The importance of pre-qualification

If you’re in sales, sales management or business development, here’s a reality check for you: Are you counting on closing a deal or projecting income from an opportunity that isn’t fully qualified? Whenever we ask sales professionals this powerful question, we often hear an awkward silence in response. Sometimes that silence is because the person,

The etiquette of email subject lines

Depending on what year it is, and what source you’re looking at, it is reported that more than 3 billion emails are exchanged each day.  Because subject lines are like book titles, and we know the old “don’t judge a book by its cover” expression, emails are judged and, therefore, opened based on who sends