Whether it’s work, school, personal or professional matters, we all lead busy and often stressful lives.  Throw COVID-19 into the mix and no wonder mental health needs are at an all-time high.   As World Mental Health Day occurs this Saturday, October 10th,  aim to make mental health a priority in your organization.  World Mental Health Day could serve as the starting point for elevating mental health to the next level for your organization! As leaders, we have a responsibility to ensure our employees and students are coping with life’s stressors in a healthy manner and that we are contributing to their wellbeing.  While the topic of mental health should be a year-round discussion, World Mental Health Day is one of the few days during the year that allows us to pause and reflect on the status of our mental health, and work to eradicate the stigma surrounding it. 

In order to help you start the conversation in your organization, you might want to ask your employees to complete the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Mental Health Meter, which will help them determine how mentally fit they are.

Based on the CMHA’s Mental Health Meter, there are five characteristics that help make up a sound mental health:

  • Ability to enjoy life
  • Resilience
  • Balance
  • Self-actualization
  • Flexibility

While I always recommend seeking professional advice, the online tool can help provide them with an indication of what areas of their lives could use improvement to help increase their mental health and wellbeing. In addition, please review the three key areas I have outlined below designed to help you better support your employee’s mental health.

Encourage your employees and students to speak up

Asking for help is one of the most difficult things a person can do, especially in a professional or academic setting.  For this reason, I encourage you to normalize asking for help by using a proactive approach.  In addition to promoting mental health services via posters and electronic communications, there are other ways you can maintain the conversation around mental health by adding a more personal, sincere touch.  Depending on the size of your organization, you may choose to host “mental health” workshops to keep the conversation going and build rapport with your employees or students, or use team meetings as an opportunity to mention the importance of open communication and raising concerns with the appropriate contact person.  While the intricacies of our personal lives are a private matter, we can do our part to ensure we encourage our employees and students to speak up when they’re in need.

Promote exercise and healthy eating

Another key strategy for improving our mental health is by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.  According to ParticipACTION, 8 in 10 Canadians are not active enough to reap the health benefits of a physically active lifestyle.  Just like we can promote asking for help, we can also promote physical activity and healthy eating in our organizations.  Considering our employees and students spend a good majority of their time at work or at school, I recommend investing in wellness programs that can help fuel their health and wellbeing.  While these programs are a financial investment, the long-term benefits they provide on treating mental health issues far outweigh the costs. 

Lead by example

It’s one thing to preach about the importance of mental health, but it’s another to actually do something about it.  If our employees and students see firsthand that, as leaders, we are also making our own mental health a priority, they will likely follow suit.  When hosting mental health or wellness programs in your organization, I strongly encourage all levels of management to show up and participate.  If we lead by example, we can ensure that both our organizations and the people who make them successful are strong at their core.

On World Mental Health Day, be sure to initiate and maintain the conversation surrounding mental health.  Many feel they don’t know where to turn, consider sharing accessible resources such as your Employee and Student Assistance Programs!