While May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we know it’s important to think about mental health throughout the whole year. As communicators and marketers, it’s difficult to fully step away, as there’s often work right at our fingertips. This combined with all the other stressors around us means sometimes our mental health gets put on the back burner. As someone who has navigated my own mental health struggles both in the workplace and out, I know the importance of keeping mental health a priority.
We wanted to share a few reminders and tips about how we can be advocates for our own mental health, and how we can support our colleagues, as well.
First and foremost – your mental health is important. And it is OK to take the time and space you need to prioritize it. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental illness every year. At some point, however, all of us experience struggles, whether it’s with anxiety, stress or even just feeling overwhelmed. Regardless, it is normal, valid and important to address. Here’s where you can start in the workplace:
- Speak up about it. Talk to your supervisor or a trusted leader about what you’re experiencing and what support you may need. Maybe it’s an open opportunity to take 15 minutes away whenever you need, maybe it’s an upcoming day off to focus on mental health. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.
- Research what your health benefits offer in terms of mental health services. Sometimes taking care of your mental health requires outside assistance. Look into your health plan and see what is covered. Many health plans offer help finding in-network providers. Find a provider that’s in-network and specializes in your specific mental health needs, and set up an appointment.
- Ask for help. If you feel like you’re drowning with work projects, reach out to team members and ask them to lend a hand. We’ve all been there – when you are, remember asking for help is a sign of strength.
- Do something every day that centers you. For some it may be taking a walk during lunch, for others it’s taking 10 minutes to scroll through TikTok. Find something that brings you a sense of calm and helps recenter you during the day.
As employers, team members and supervisors, it’s also important we support our team. There are several ways to make sure you’re showing up for your colleagues:
- Listen. If a colleague comes to you and expresses they are struggling with their mental health, it shows they have a deep trust in you. Listen to what they need, and don’t dismiss what they’re going through.
- If you’re in a leadership position, ensure your health plan covers mental health. According to Forbes, one reason people don’t seek help for mental health comes down to affordability. Mental health should be regarded with importance just like physical health, so offering your employees a health plan that covers mental health services and letting your staff know about that benefit is a crucial step to ensuring your team gets the care they need.
- Offer help. In PR, the world doesn’t operate only between the hours of 9–5. It’s difficult to fully shut off work. It’s on us to make sure social media is still monitored, crises are managed and events are covered. Despite this, there are ways to ensure no one is overwhelmed. On the Bellmont Partners team, we take turns with social media community management, to ensure the work is covered but we all get a break. We also build our client teams so when someone takes time off, the rest of the team is ready to step in and ensure our teammate can fully step away. Having a team structure like this means colleagues won’t feel guilty for taking the time they need, and the work still gets done.
- Work to create a space where mental health is prioritized. Acknowledge that you know people may be struggling, it’s OK not to be OK, and options for help are available. Share those options. Set up things like generous PTO or unlimited sick time if you’re in a position to do that, or simply talk about mental health. While the stigma is less than what it used to be, people are often still afraid to speak up about what they are experiencing. Talking about how important mental health is helps build a culture where your colleagues and team will feel more comfortable sharing their needs.
To practice what I preach, I’ll share my own experience with mental health in the workplace. As someone who has a diagnosed phobia, panic disorder and anxiety disorder, this topic rears its head way more often than I would like it to. For a long time, I was afraid to say anything about it and instead suffered in silence, worried that if I asked for a day off because of panic attacks I would get in trouble – or worse – fired. I didn’t want to make my colleagues think I wasn’t a team player or couldn’t do my job. In the past few years, however, I’ve realized speaking up for what I need is crucial. My colleagues will, without question, step in to help assist with a meeting, project or community management so I can focus on my mental health, and in return, I absolutely do the same. We also have benefits that fully cover mental health services, so I’m able to get the professional help I need without worrying about the financial burden or the burden on my team. This has resulted in a deep amount of trust with my teammates, a deep amount of appreciation for my workplace, and a deep sense of relief and compassion for myself and my own needs.
Every person’s situation is different, which means every person’s needs are different. But one thing is certain – it’s important for us to take care of ourselves, and it’s important for us to take care of each other.
Below is a list of resources if you or someone you know needs help: