6 Ways to Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month

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Employers around the world have been forced to stand up and take note around issues of mental health in the workplace since the start of the pandemic. As people deal with social isolation, anxiety associated with increased uncertainty and changing dynamics at home and at work, understanding the human experience as it relates to the workplace has never been more important for employers.

Engaging employees around mental health can be a challenge, which is why it’s important to look for any natural opportunity to do so. May is Mental Health Awareness, providing HR an opening to discuss this difficult topic with employees and educate them on the resources at their disposal. Here 6 ways to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month and get the conversation going.

  1. Create Space to Relax

Think about the holidays. What do you to celebrate around the workplace? Do you have a formal training on the origins of Thanksgiving or Christmas? No, you plan a way for people to relax together, or in the case of the COVID era, just take a bit of time for themselves.

The same can be done this month by designating a day or series of times over the course of the month, where employees can just relax and think about something other work. Perhaps it’s a virtual mental health happy hour with all work related conversation banned. Maybe it’s a mental health roundtable or breakout sessions amongst member of different teams. Whatever you decide, create a space where people can relax and socialize or do something positive for their mental health while on the clock.

  1. Define Stress

It sounds simple, but there are so many different kinds of stress it’s worth helping your employees define which ones they’re experiencing, which ones are bad and what they can do to alleviate them. Some types of stress are good, only serving to fuel motivation and a sense of achievement. A little healthy stress can alleviate boredom and challenge people to innovate.

A high amount of unhealthy stress, however, can burn people out, lead to depression and anxiety, drive disengagement and ultimately increase turnover. It’s important to know what type of stress your employees are experiencing and help them understand what they can do to limit unhealthy stress and see the value of healthy stress.

READ: Employee Wellbeing: HR’s Guide to an Engaged and Adaptive Workforce 

  1. Help Shape Healthy Tech Habits

Technology is a part of life. It is inescapable and all-consuming at times. A study from Forrester showed that workers in information heavy fields use 2.3 devices each work day on average. That doesn’t include the devices they use when at home. In total, studies show that the average American is getting around 12 hours of screen time each day causing them to consume about five times as much information as someone their age would have 50 years ago. That has a drastic impact on mental health as the brain can only filter and absorb so much information.

Time on social media in particular has affected the way we interact with people and our overall mental health. With this in mind, it’s good to help employees see how screen time may be impacting their sleep patterns, stress levels and ability to logically consume information and how all of that may be a plague for their mental health.

  1. Don’t Wait Until Their Dead to Let Them Sleep

Sleep is a vital part of healthy brain function and mental health. It regulates several systems throughout the body and provides our brain time to filter our unnecessary information consumed during the day. As a result, learning ability, memory and cognitive function all improve. It’s vital that people are educated about the importance of sleep and all the different stages of it.

For example, excessive use of screens often disrupts sleep patterns and limits the amount of deep sleep, or REM sleep, a person gets. Anxiety and depression can also cause this. Health issues are then compounded by this lack of deep sleep, leading to things such as mood disorders, heart disease, migraines and obesity. In the end, healthy sleep patterns are key to health, both mental and physical. Provide employees with advice on how to build healthy sleep routines that don’t involve sleeping pills or other unhealthy methods that people turn to when sleep becomes an issue.

READ: Employee Burnout Statistics You Need to Know

  1. Develop Support Networks

Whether it’s through Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), team building exercises or creating new communities around the business, make sure your employees have the support network they need. This can come in a variety of formats and one that may prove useful to mental health is mentor programs. Mentors can challenge mentees on learning new things and provide them with someone to confide in. The value of this to mental health is immeasurable, to say nothing of what it can do for employee engagement and development.

  1. Engage on Mental Health

It sounds like the simplest thing on this list, but in many cases may be the hardest. Talking to employees about mental health can be a challenge as some simply don’t want to engage around it. The more you make it the norm to have open dialogue around difficult issues, the more engagement you’ll receive. Be sure to outline company mental health benefits and tools that may be of use.

Every employee should be provided the tools necessary to access Employee Assistance Programs and understand how they can offset the expense of mental health counseling and other wellbeing services. Make sure you’re communicating frequently and thoroughly to provide employees the best information possible, not just this month, but on a regular basis. If you’re not, this month is the perfect time to get your wellbeing communications strategy in order.

Photo Courtesy of Stock Photo Secrets 

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