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Mental Health in the Workplace – Supporting Yourself and Your Colleagues

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

 Nation­al Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Hotline

Black Men­tal Health Alliance

Cri­sis Text Line

LGBTQ Nation­al Hotline

Vet­er­ans Cri­sis Line

PrairieCare

MnFIRE Assis­tance Program

Min­neso­ta Farm and Rur­al Helpline

Nacional de Pre­ven­ción del Suicidio

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