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Alisha Berman May 22, 2024 4 min read

Creating a Workplace Culture of Support for Better Mental Health

Consider this: Fewer than 1 in 3 employees who have access to their employer’s mental health benefits think that those benefits truly meet their mental health needs.1 Now think about that information amidst the backdrop of our current environment: (a) Mental health isn’t improving in the United States,2 and (b) today, there exists a “permacrisis”3 fueled by the pandemic, persistent high inflation, international turmoil and war, and more.

When you look at mental health from this perspective, it’s easy to see why organizations are constantly evaluating the mental health of their people and working on what they can do about it. In fact, recent data from UKG4 presented at the recent Silicon Valley Employers Forum noted that:

  • 60% of the workforce say their job has the biggest influence on their mental health.
  • 69% say managers impact their mental health more than a therapist.
  • 81% prioritize good mental health over pay.

With May marking Mental Health Awareness Month, many organizations are asking about how they can holistically address the broad range of mental health needs among their people.

Benefits leaders recognize that age, disability or ability, gender, sex, race, nationality, color, religion, marital status, and so on need to be considered if they’re ever going to achieve an equitable and diverse workplace where all feel welcome. And this is especially true when it comes to mental health.

Take the Moment for Mental Health

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Month theme is Take the Moment. This is a great time to remind employees about how they can use their benefits to improve their mental and emotional well-being. A communications campaign that highlights your benefits, programs, and resources about mental and emotional well-being and engages leadership in the delivery of that messaging can encourage your people to use those offerings. Take, for example, a mental health awareness campaign that a multiemployer group promoted. This group increased awareness about the type of help and resources members could access through their program with quarterly home mailings, direct emails, and business manager outreach. Because of these efforts, their employees’ utilization of their member assistance program more than doubled.

Two Important Audiences

The stress caused by the aftereffects of the pandemic, ongoing inflation, global conflict, international turmoil, and just everyday life has hit people managers especially hard. Not only have they faced their own personal challenges, they’re also on the front lines supporting employees. Consider providing dedicated communications to managers to help them recognize mental health challenges in themselves and others—and to point them to relevant resources. For example, you could provide talking points for managers about where to go for help and how to use the benefits. If a manager has a team member who needs help, they’ll be able to connect the person with the right resources.

Also, don’t forget about family members. In the example mentioned above, the multiemployer group saw member assistance program utilization rates from family members alone climb as high as 60%. For your organization, consider sending mailings such as postcards or newsletters to your employees’ homes instead of handing them out at work. This is an effective way to reach everyone, not just employees. Family and home life is an important component of your employees’ overall well-being.

Creating a Culture of Support

Use these tips to help your organization come together for Mental Health Awareness Month.

  • Stay positive and don’t be afraid to talk about mental health. A recent Harvard Business Review article notes that “Workers and leaders alike need the strategies to create psychological safety and sustainable work cultures.” The month of May provides the perfect starting point for special promotions and announcements that feature your organization’s mental health resources.
  • Break down barriers to resources. If employees don’t know where to go when they need mental health care, it can “lead to further complications for employees and increased costs for employers. For example, employees with unresolved depression experience a 35% reduction in productivity, contributing to an annual economic loss of $210.5 billion,” according to data from Modern Health.
  • Make it accessible. The information and resources must be easy for employees and their families to access. If you don’t already offer self-care resources that can be used easily and anonymously, consider doing so. Additionally, the MetLife Employee Benefit Trends Study notes that employees are looking for more help, especially around their financial and mental well-being. So make sure you’re not making it a treasure hunt for employees to find these benefits.
  • Fight the stigma. Not everyone is going to be comfortable with the discussion about mental health. Culture change begins top down and bottom up. Be open to feedback, and show your team that you understand. Help them focus on how to best help themselves by promoting the available benefits and programs.


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Alisha Berman

Alisha Berman, Senior Consultant, has more than 10 years of experience creating winning benefits communications strategies for her clients.