Mental health awareness seems to be at an all-time high among employers. Articles, webinars, and online HR events have all focused on this important issue. But where does that leave the countless employees out there right now suffering from a wave of mental health concerns? I recently spoke about the issue with Betty Thompson, EVP and Chief People Officer for Booz Allen Hamilton.
I asked Thompson what she thought about the growing awareness surrounding mental health concerns. She said that “while there’s been a growing awareness around mental health and we have been focused on this for several years, very visibly and actively aware of it and working on it, I think the pandemic has brought it more into focus that this is important. I think more people are asking a question about how people are handling [and] experiencing this unprecedented situation. Nobody’s not impacted by it in some way.”
Her last point is the real crux of the situation. A shocking number of people had mental health challenges before the pandemic, and those challenges have likely worsened. Meanwhile, a new wave of people with mental health challenges has arisen. Some experts wonder if anyone can walk away from the pandemic without some kind of mental health issue. For this reason, it is now more important than ever for employers to show awareness and understanding while directly supporting their employees.
What Booz Allen Hamilton Does to Support Mental Health
Simply having a benefit that enables employees to see a therapist 10 times, with a copay buried in your overall health benefits package, is not enough to get them through this very difficult time. Booz Allen Hamilton takes a more comprehensive approach. “Our initiative focuses on physical wellness, the importance of being part of a community, financial wellness, and then mental wellness at the early stages,” says Thompson. She adds that the company’s initiative comes with the support of a nonprofit “that’s very much focused on mental health. They were driving a campaign asking for corporations to sign a pledge, to educate their employees on the five signs of emotional suffering.”
Taking into consideration social and financial wellness as a part of mental wellness, combined with the support of a dedicated organization, puts the company in a stronger place to really help its employees—ideally before a minor mental health challenge becomes a major one.
However, HR professionals may potentially end up functioning as a therapist if they don’t have a mental health strategy. If employees are suffering and they don’t know what benefits they have, they will have to talk to HR to find out. “We don’t want you to be the therapist,” says Thompson. Using an outside organization that specializes in mental health challenges can help make HR the facilitator that gets employees the help they need.
How Mental Health Facilitation Works
To better serve their employees, the HR staff at Booz Allen Hamilton are given materials and education so they can recognize mental health concerns when they see them. “Maybe you can pick up on personality changes, increased agitation, withdrawing behavior, poor self-care, and feelings of hopelessness.” The nonprofit they work with helps them understand these signs and what to do when they see them. The nonprofit also educates employees and leaders about these challenges so they understand how to handle the situation…
Source: HR Daily Advisor