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WORK

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Widespread change starts with the individual. Someone who believes in a cause and is willing to advocate on behalf of it. Doing so isn't always easy. It takes time, energy and perseverance. But when enough of us decide to fight for change, we make that change a reality.

Our community advocacy pillars represent five areas of modern society that are in need of mental health reform — our schools, homes, work environments, places of worship and government institutions. Each pillar offers high-level advocacy recommendations for those willing to get involved on a community level. 

When it comes to the workplace, mental health advocacy is all about destigmatizing the conversation, updating benefits packages, offering accommodations and investing in employee wellbeing.

Looking to be a mental health champion at your workplace? Let's dive deeper:

Principles

1) Start the Conversation

A true culture of wellness requires an active dialogue. Foster meaningful conversations about workplace mental health by encouraging supervisors to sit down with their staff and vocalize their support. Then, take things a step further. Teach employees about the options they have when it comes to finding treatment or requesting accommodations, promote the use of non-stigmatizing language, discourage gossip, discuss warning signs and crisis plans in case of a mental health emergency, and finally, ask employees what they’re looking for in terms of support.

2) Offer Accommodations

We all have workplace stressors. For many of us, they don’t stop us from coping with daily tasks. For someone with a mental health condition, they might. This is where accomodations come into play. A workplace accommodation is an adjustment that enables an employee with a disability or medical condition, such as mental health condition, to perform the essential functions of his/her job. They’re defined by the American with Disabilities (ADA) Act as “modifications to a job, the work environment or the way things are usually done.” When implemented, they help set individuals up for success and improve the overall health of your team. What do accommodations look like? They can be as simple as adjusted hours and work-from-home flexibility. Or, they might involve emotional support animals, job transfers or a leave of absence.

3) Commit to Confidentiality

Some people choose to discuss their mental health publicly, but for most it’s a private matter. Your company should have protections in place to keep it that way. First, craft a confidentiality plan that protects employees who are disclosing personal information. Work with your legal team to make this custom to your company. Next, create a safe system for requesting help. Establish a role in your organization that’s responsible for managing accommodation requests. Once a plan is ready for implementation, they’ll deliver it directly to an employee’s supervisor, ensuring that no unnecessary personal details are disclosed in the process. It’s important that this person is seen as a confidant by your staff. Finally, clearly communicate these updates to your team. Consider bringing in a lawyer to answer questions and clarify confusing legal language.

4) Align Physical & Mental Health Benefits

For a benefits plan to work, it must give equal weight to physical and mental health offerings (also known as parity). Start by offering health insurance that covers a wide range of mental health services. From there, consider supportive initiatives like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), that offer confidential assessments and counseling to employees in need. Then look beyond parity and explore other health-related benefits that further support employees in their quest for work-life balance. This may include things like parental leave, childcare services and unlimited PTO.

5) Fund Wellness Initiatives

Wellness initiatives help tie everything together by making mental well-being a key component of your company culture. There’s no end to the kinds of programs and events these can entail. Everything from stress management exercises - like office yoga and art therapy - to workshops that offer mental health education. Don’t forget to include employees in the brainstorming process by asking them for recommendations.

6) Provide Personalized Growth Plans

It’s easy to feel lost amidst a sea of deadlines, to-dos and daily stress. But when provided with a clear path forward, employees thrive. Personalized growth plans give employees the structure and encouragement they need to get ahead. And in doing so, help mitigate the anxiety and depression that can come with job dissatisfaction. Develop personalized growth plans that clearly lay out job expectations, learning opportunities, communication channels, evaluation criteria and more. Give people a chance to vocalize the ways in which they feel valued, and the ways in which they don’t. Then address those concerns in a structured format. Supporting employees in these ways can have a huge impact on emotional well-being, as well as productivity, creativity and collaboration.

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We’re on a mission to change how the world perceives mental health.