Another news alert. Another headline. Another tweet. Every day we’re bombarded with more bad news—crisis level bad news. And it’s taking a toll.
In a recent article, The Washington Post explored the toll that mass violence is taking on Americans’ psyches and the collective trauma. The statistics are frightening and the long-term effects are chilling. In times of crisis, employees look to their company leadership for guidance, assurance, and empathy. How are we doing? What are we doing? Where do we start?
First, let’s make sure we’re normalizing the conversation about mental health. Gone are the days of whispering about mental wellness—thank goodness! When I was growing up, mental health wasn’t discussed. I’m not sure it was even a phrase in my small midwestern town. I’ve made sure my kids were raised to freely talk about their mental health in the same manner they talk about their physical health. When the Uvalde school shooting shocked our nation, our family talked about how we were feeling, our emotions, our physical reactions. Our employees need that same support. They need to know, from leadership down, that it’s fully accepted – dare I say expected – in their workplace to take care of their mental health.
Employers, we have a responsibility to be knowledgeable of and offer the latest in mental health benefits. It’s no longer a “nice to offer”. In the current climate, employees need access, and they need it immediately. The good news is employers are offering more mental health benefits. In a recent Harris Poll, nearly 23% of workers reported that their employers had introduced new mental health services during the pandemic. Nearly 30% of workers said their company offered valuable Employee Assistance Programs (EAPS); 19% had access to tele-doc mental health services. The bad news is, 36% of workers reported their company offered none of the now standard mental health benefits. None. Despite the great strides corporate America has made in the mental health space, 41% of workers still say their company doesn’t offer any therapy, counseling, or related benefits, according to that Harris survey. Employers, mental wellness is going to have an impact on the success of your business. It’s inevitable. The question is are you leading from the front to determine what that impact will be?
Employees, it’s imperative that you know what mental health benefits your company offers. You need to know today, not when the crisis strikes. It’s vital that you know how to access your benefits long before you need to utilize them. Log into your company’s benefits platform. Talk to HR. Get access to links, group policy numbers, log in information. Get your profile set up. You shouldn’t wait for a crisis to benefit from mental health benefits. The America Counseling Association published a resource guide for navigating through crises. They highlight the need to recognize when you or those around you may need extra support. Make self-care your priority.
As we all wade through this deep pool of collective trauma, we have a responsibility to ourselves and to our mental wellness: prioritizing self-care, emotional health, and utilizing our resources. Don’t be afraid to ask, “How are you doing?” Don’t be afraid to say, “Not so great.” Don’t be afraid to listen closely and respond honestly. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to ask for help.
Since Uvalde, there have been more than 20 additional mass shootings. There are hundreds of active wildfires burning acreage and homes. Our nation is collectively holding its breath over Roe vs Wade, January 6th hearings, and mid-term elections. Inflation is squeezing finances to the breaking point.
Our employees are living through crisis after crisis, and so are we. As employers, we have access to tools that will help them process the collective trauma, strengthen our companies, and help us lead with guidance, assurance, and empathy. Our employees and our businesses need us to lead from the front.
The time is now.