Strategizing about Mental Health

Apr 05, 2013

Sadly, it often takes a mental health crisis or traumatic event in the workplace to create organizational awareness of mental health issues. At that moment, energy is focussed on locating and delivering resources to the individual or individuals impacted during a crisis. Planning for mental health wellness or developing a strategy for workplace mental health is rarely discussed or considered.

While it is necessary to have procedures in place, including identifying various resources that may be relied upon during a mental health crisis, it is equally important to have a strategy to promote mental health and have an environment that can play a positive role in managing mental illness in the workplace.

A lack of awareness tends to have organizations focus on the day to day management of minor, easily identifiable mental health issues. Even though focus might be on minor mental health issues, having an understanding and protocols established for mental health emergencies is important.

There is a lot of evidence that as a society, we are making progress in elevating the mental health conversation and the media is playing a positive role in removing the stigma attached to mental illness. Consider Bell’s Let’s Talk initiative this past February, which attracted almost 100 million tweets, and you can see clearly that Canadians are becoming aware and share in the concern.  Positive changes are beginning to emerge.

It will take considerable effort and intentional advocacy to create or enhance mental health in the workplace. Establishing priorities within your organization and beginning to strategize in the following areas might be a good place to start:

  • Increase awareness about how to promote mental health and prevent mental illness wherever possible, thereby reducing the stigma
  • Create a workplace that fosters positive mental health through having a sense of belonging, good interpersonal relationships and good physical health
  • Have a strategy to intervene early

The problem is not going away and perception might be that it is a growing issue. It is more likely though that the issue has moved into mainstream discussions. This is a good thing and hopefully meaningful outcomes in the workplace will result.

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