With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time for employers to ramp up their focus on mental health. After the enormous increase in stress since the spring of 2020, this year mental health should be a bigger focus in the workplace than ever. But it’s not enough to just say you value mental health in the workplace, you have to show your employees through action.
You can plan a couple of activities throughout the month that help remove the stigma around talking about mental health in the workplace, as well as provide help and resources for those who may need it. Here are some examples of mental health awareness month activities and ideas for the workplace that you can execute next month:
1. A mental health lunch and learn
A lunch and learn is a great way to get your employees’ attention, while keeping the mood light and low-pressure. Here are some tips for an effective lunch and learn:
- Choose a topic. Mental health is an umbrella term that encompasses many things. Narrow it down to a more specific topic so people know what to expect. Some ideas include “Stress Management Tips,” “Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness in the Workplace” and “Signs of Anxiety and Depression”.
- Get the help of a professional. Your employees are more likely to heed the message of a mental health professional than another employee. Plus, for a sensitive topic like mental health, it’s good to have a trained professional there to give advice and provide a safe space for speaking openly.
- Incentivize. Although you’ll be providing lunch, you can increase participation even more by incentivizing further. You could enter attendees into a raffle for a prize such as an extra PTO day or a gift card.
- Gather feedback. Whether you plan on making these a regular occurrence or not, it’s good to know your employees’ thoughts. Make sure you provide an anonymous way to submit feedback so they are honest.
2. A workplace positivity seminar
Having a seminar or workshop devoted to workplace positivity can equip employees with tools and strategies they need to reframe their daily interactions and improve mental health in the workplace.
These courses can be self-led or led by a professional and focus on a few main key topics: Identifying benefits of positivity, introducing techniques to reframe negative thought patterns to positive ones, and choosing the most positive course of action.
If a formal seminar does not fit well into your workplace, consider a less formal approach such as a team-building game that focuses on communication, togetherness and problem-solving.
3. A depression and anxiety screening
For employees who may be dealing with more stress than ever before, a depression and anxiety screening may be just what they need to figure out how to best handle their issues. Bringing in licensed professionals who can administer questionnaires and give qualified feedback accordingly is a great step.
The first step in resolving mental health issues is identifying them; a screening can do just that. A mental health professional can recommend the right course of action to take from there, whether it be a referral to a therapist/counselor, stress management strategies or medical intervention.
4. Sharing mental health resources
A simple activity that can be done alone or in conjunction with other activities is sharing mental health resources with employees. It’s best to do this in addition to other efforts since some people may be hesitant to discuss their mental health issues publicly in the workplace. If that’s the case, they can take their resources home with them and utilize them privately.
There are great resources out there to distribute to your employees, including the Mental Health Toolkit from Mental Health America, which is a great place to start.
Remember, it’s up to employers to set the tone for how mental health is treated in your workplace. You can make a real difference by proactively holding these events and creating a supportive environment where your employees can be open and honest about their well-being.
Investing in your employees’ mental health is an investment in them as people. And when you show employee appreciation by investing in your people, you’ll see improvements in productivity, morale, attendance, retention, and more. Plus, what you put in place for your teams, like workplace activities for mental health, will likely benefit you as well.