Mental Health is Health
“How are you? Are you ok? How can I help?”
These are the questions that have peppered my conversations over the past year. The questions themselves are not so unusual. What has been outright refreshing are the responses — “I am struggling. I am not ok. I need help.” It may seem odd to be excited about a “negative” response, and yet I find myself inspired by the vulnerability and authenticity displayed by more and more of my colleagues and peers. These days it’s been well documented that mental health is critical for our overall well-being. As we continue to navigate the global pandemic that has given rise to an emerging mental health crisis, we have a unique opportunity to further diminish the stigma of mental health that has kept so many from accessing the support they need.
- According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “nearly 8 in 10 adults (78%) say the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their life. Stress levels among young adults (ages 18-23), those primed to start entering the workforce, is higher than among any other generation.”
- The new realities of working from home, balancing caregiving responsibilities and increased isolation has taken its toll on employee’s ability to be fully present at work.
- Even while our collective acceptance of mental health is growing, the gap still exists between those who need care and those who can access care.
- Employers are increasingly acknowledging the need to fully support employee's mental health as part of the commitment to taking care of their people.
At UKG, we promote emotional well-being as one of the core pillars of our global wellness program. We encourage our employees to explore mental health alongside the impact of strong social connections, stress management, service in the community and the discovery of one’s purpose.
Mental Health in Our Communities
In addition to Mental Health Awareness Month, at UKG we also celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May. Taking the time to honor the diverse perspectives of our communities is just one of the ways we work towards creating a safe and welcome environment so our employees can bring their whole selves into the workplace.
Over the past year it has also become self-evident that social issues occurring within our communities has a direct effect on the mental health of individuals, both within and outside those communities. We no longer have the luxury of compartmentalizing our professional lives from our personal lives, and as a result mental health campaigns must evolve to meet people where they are and provide support in ways that respects individuals’ lived experiences.
This month, our UKG Health & Well-Being team in partnership with our UKG Diversity Networks hosted an open forum and dialogue event, Overcoming the Stigma Together. Together we gave voice to the challenges, struggles and successes of supporting mental health as individuals and members of larger communities. In the process, we all took a step toward greater understanding and compassion.
- Now is the time to take advantage of the shared experiences and struggles we have all recently faced and expand Mental Health Month Awareness campaigns beyond basic education and stigma reduction.
- Belonging is integral to one’s sense of self and can have a significant impact on mental health. Employers that actively foster a culture of inclusivity, diversity and equity provide a strong foundation of support for their people’s well-being.
- Partnering with employee resources groups can help facilitate more thoughtful dialogue around mental health by honoring the complex and diverse experiences employees bring to the table.
- Employers should encourage and support dialogue around mental health in the workplace not just during May, but all year long, in recognition that social issues and world events impact each of us every day.
Mental health is health and now is the moment to move forward and honor the robust complexity of our emotional well-being. Every day each of us will have numerous interactions with our colleagues, leaders, friends, and family and each interaction is filled with possibility of meaningful connection and mutual support. So, let’s keep asking — how are you feeling today?
I’ll be joined by some of my colleagues here at UKG to make sure the conversation around mental health at work extends well beyond the month of May. Whether you’re tasked with supporting the mental health of a workforce or just your own, we hope you find this blog posts, and others to come, helpful in your journey.