Our program coordinator here at Boreal, Justine, recently completed a Mental Health First Aid course. The course she took teaches participants how to help someone with a mental health problem until a professional can step in.
Mental health is an important topic, and Justine learned a lot from the course that might come in handy at your workplace as well. Here are her biggest takeaways:
The stigma surrounding mental health is a sort of vicious, self-perpetuating cycle: the stigma exists because so many people don’t really understand mental health issues, and those same issues are hard to talk about because there’s a stigma.
The only way out of the loop is education. The more effort we make to educate ourselves (and our employees), the more we’ll learn how similar mental health issues are to medical issues. One way to get started with learning more is to take a mental health course, like Justine did. You could also schedule a mental health workshop for your workplace.
Compassion is another big part of combating the stigma. Be open and ask questions, and make mental health resources available for your employees. Create a work culture where mental health is part of the discussion.
Despite the difference in perception of mental and physical health, in reality we cannot separate body and mind when talking about whether a person is healthy. The body and mind work together, and they affect each other.
For example, even something as seemingly unrelated as a payroll issue can negatively affect a person’s mental health. If someone isn’t being paid enough or on time, the resulting stress and anxiety can affect other areas of their lives, including their ability to perform well at work.
This isn’t putting the blame on anyone—mental health issues are not anyone’s fault. That’s important to remember! But, we all have a responsibility to care for and look out for one another. Just like we want workplaces that support workers’ physical health and wellbeing, we want to create environments that support mental health as well.
Mental health issues aren’t your fault as an employer, and they are not your responsibility to “fix,” either. Your biggest and most important role in assisting an employee dealing with a mental illness is to support them until a professional can step in.
Think about this analogy: if you find an accident victim on the street, what is expected of you? You’re not expected (or qualified!) to perform surgery. Your role is to call 911 and wait with the victim until the ambulance arrives. It’s the same for mental health—just focus on providing the resources for your employee to find the help they need, and stay with them until help arrives.
There are some big things happening for mental health education. We’re just about to enter into Mental Health Week in Canada, and Bell Let’s Talk is a cell-network-wide awareness campaign to get people engaging in and supporting conversations about mental health.
These are amazing initiatives that have helped hundreds of thousands of people—and the ideas they stand for need to carry over to the smaller-scale, everyday stuff. Let’s keep the conversation going even when there’s not an “event” happening. It’s only by being open and honest with each other, always, that we can move beyond the stigma and toward healing for all.
What does your company do to beat the mental health stigma and encourage healthy employees?