I recently had the chance to attend the MHA virtual conference where I got hear from political leaders, a fashion icon, mental health leaders, and so many incredible other speakers. It was jam-packed with stats, stories, and sobering realizations. Things that, even being in the field of bringing this to light, I was shocked by.

People now are having a strain on their mental health. It's no secret, yet, so many leaders aren't taking steps to address it with their workforce. Here's the thing - according to this conference and the mental health providers they work with, there has been an increase in the number of mental health cases, the severity of those cases, the frequency of cases (having multiple issues from one person), as well as younger age-onset of issues. To summarize, that means more people are having more severe and more frequent mental health issues earlier now that we're in the pandemic.

Let that sit just a minute, because that is a big deal.

Before this pandemic, we had said we were already in a mental health epidemic, and now it's being strained even MORE than before?!? As leaders, we're called to support those around us. If there was ever a cause in need, mental health is it. We need to take action and begin the conversation. Every day is an opportunity to overcome the silent stigma surrounding mental illnesses and shorten the gap between the first signs of mental health problems and getting help.

How we can all begin to make this often not talked about issue is facing it head on and creating space where people can talk freely about these issues. Ask your employees "How are you doing, really?". In that conversation, allow yourself to open up, showing vulnerability and enabling others to feel comfortable about speaking up themselves. We need to begin the discussion, for the health of everyone around us.

Some companies have an EAP in place (Employee Assistance Program) for employees to anonymously contact professional help for current issues they are facing. We think this is good to have because experts are a level of support the average person just can't give. What we need in conjunction with an EAP at companies is the relationship between teammates and coworkers to encourage others to seek help when that time comes. Having the responsibility of reaching out is on the individual, yes, but the feeling of burden often associated with it shouldn't be carried alone. Focus on relationships within your organization and the EAP thrives, it's not a stand-alone cure all nor is it meant to be.

The stigma that is associated with mental health is one that we need to focus on first and normalize the fact that, as one presenter put at the conference, "1 in 4 people have a mental health diagnosis, more than likely 2 in 4 actually have one currently, but 4 in 4 are affected by it". We ask all leaders to address this head on and provide regular programming, support, and leadership training to best be ready to not only support their teams, coworkers, family, friends, or direct reports, but more than likely, themselves. Just like the pandemic, we're in this mental health epidemic together - and that's the way we'll get through it.

Today, you can choose to learn what else you can do to help advocate for improvements for those living with mental health concerns. To take that next best step, go to the MHA Get Involved website and get involved.

If your company is interested in having a culture that thrives, we'd love to come alongside you in your journey, so feel free to Contact Us today!