How To Be A Mental Health Advocate In HR

May is mental health awareness month.

But as anyone who has struggled with their mental health can tell you, you‚Äôre always aware of your mental health.

I can say firsthand that it’s a constant process. There is no long-term cure-all for every instance of anxiety, depression, fatigue, or other common mental maladies that face today’s workforce. A month of regular yoga—while helpful—will not guarantee a month of perfect stable health.

And since we spend 80 hours a week (or more!) at our place of employment, it would be more than beneficial for HR professionals and leaders to at least attempt to help their employees get the best mental health support they can. As Forbes pointed out, “90% of [their] employees struggled with mental health or knew someone who did.” When the majority of your employees need (or know someone who needs) that extra boost, why are we hesitating to address it?

My hope is that we won‚Äôt. Here are ways to show your employees that their mental health is as important as the results of their work. 

1. Create an open and honest space for your employees

This has to be the first step. As an HR professional, you have to provide a safe space for your employees to come to you about these issues without fear. It is illegal to discriminate against those with mental health conditions, and advocating for your people and their stories will make it easier for your employees. This is an extra step to make them feel included and valued. They’ll feel more comfortable working for a place that takes the time to understand them, and ultimately what keeps employees around is satisfaction with their workplace.

2. Provide training for your managers to understand mental health

Not everyone has had the same experiences, so it’s important to provide a firm groundwork to what mental health is and how you can be an effective leader to those people who might be experiencing it. There is an entire site dedicated to tackling this (aptly named Workplace Strategies for Mental Health), and they suggest a free, online training program that can teach your manager some helpful strategies.

3. Provide mental health coverage with insurance

It’s time to dispel the myth that mental health is an ailment that we bring upon ourselves. Take it from the Mayo Clinic and their definition of depression:

“Depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply ‘snap out’ of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychotherapy or both.”

If you’re in a place where you can look into providing more inclusive mental health care in your insurance plan, it’s your responsibility to do so. Isn’t the point of benefits to provide the best care possible for your employees so you can continue to kick-ass together?

These are far from simple tips, I will admit. Much like the mental health process itself, it will take time and effort to get these initiatives going. But I can promise you that if you take noticeable measures to show your employees you care, the benefits will far outweigh the cost. 

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