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MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Workplace mental health: CEOs taking responsibility

Herald Democrat - 2/6/2020

There was a movement afoot for many years among mental health professionals and advocates to convince insurance carriers to approach mental health conditions with the same levels of treatment and funding afforded to physical health conditions. This effort successfully culminated with the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act in 1996, a similar Addictions act in 2008 and the pending passage of a senate bill introduced in 2019 that would make parity requirements stronger and enforce compliance with both prior laws.

While it was important to start setting things right in the health insurance industry, now in 2020, we face a full-on mental health crisis in the United States. Look no further than your phone's news feed to see immediate evidence of increased suicides, depression on the rise, mass shootings and other unexplained acts of violence. Some CEOS are looking at how taking responsibility for mental health in the workplace can have a positive impact on employee mental health and on entire communities.

The CEO Roundtable of the American Heart Association (AHA) commissioned a report to research and underscore the responsibility of employers to provide comprehensive, science-based support for employee mental health. In 2019, the AHA published the report "Mental Health: A Workforce Crisis". This cross-industry, multi-stakeholder project included information from the 40 plus members of the AHA CEO Roundtable and their collective 10 million employees and their families.

These CEOs, from companies you recognize, make the case that employers should invest in mental health and they lay out specifics on what employers should be doing to help build healthier workplaces, workforces and communities. Their high impact recommendations to improve employee well-being and mental health include:

Leadership that takes proactive steps to build a diverse and inclusive culture that supports a mental health friendly workplace.

A formal Mental Health Plan that is available to all employees that is easy to ready and easy to implement and easy to access.

Active Communication throughout the year with employees about mental health plan benefits, the company's policies about mental health and offer ongoing training and education about mental health topics.

Benefit Plans for Behavioral Health and physical health that that focus on supporting and caring for employees.

Make the shift to Engagement of employees in all aspects of workplace decision-making.

Develop Community Partnerships help implement the company's Mental Health Plan in a way that encourages open discussion of mental health topics and concerns.

Report Outcomes and analyze strengths and opportunities to improve the mental health and well-being of employees ongoing.

"Mental Health: A Workforce Crisis" is a critical read for executives and managers, and in fact, employees at all levels. It describes these evidence-informed, Actionable Strategies that employers should be considering in order to effectively address and manage workplace mental health concerns in the coming years. No matter the size of your organization, consider starting the conversation.

Andrea Mory is a human resources and management professional who resides in North Texas. She has collaborated over the last 20 years with the private practice MoryTherapy to develop training and education programs related to behavioral health. The views and opinions expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.

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