World Mental Health Day takes place each year on October 10th. The theme for this year’s event is mental health in an unequal world—recognizing the global inequalities that contribute to poor mental health and the unique impact of the pandemic on mental health issues. Looking for ways to tie this event into your mental health programming at work? Here are 10 simple ideas for showing your commitment to mental wellness leading up to World Mental Health Day.
1. Designate a self-care day.
Encourage employees to engage in acts of self-care and post a selfie on workplace social media. Acts of self-care don’t have to be big to make an impact—think a special cup of tea, a 5-minute stretch break, 10 minutes to sit on a park bench and do nothing. The point is to destigmatize the idea that self-care is indulgent.
2. Enlist a senior leader in a mental health share.
Studies have shown that when senior leaders open up about mental illness, it has a big impact on reducing the stigma of mental health in the workplace. This could be a video, intranet article, social media post—anything to show that it’s normal to experience mental health concerns.
3. Compile a mental health benefits one-pager.
It’s frustrating to have to search for resources when you need help with mental health. Make it easy for employees and create a one-page list of all your mental health resources. Post it in a prominent location such as an intranet homepage, chat, or workplace social media. Better yet, mail a print piece to reach family members and healthcare decision-makers at home.
4. Incorporate a mental health meeting minute.
During the week leading up to October 10th, ask managers to spend a minute or two talking about a mental health concern before beginning a weekly team meeting. Give managers a list of suggested topics and talking points about common mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. This would also be a great time to share an experience with their own or a family member’s struggle with mental health. The more that employees hear leadership talking about mental health, the more empowered they’ll feel to care for their own mental wellness.
5. Hold a mindfulness, meditation and gratitude day.
Encourage employees to download a meditation or mindfulness app and give it a try for a week. Or, schedule an expert to offer virtual meditation and mindfulness sessions so employees can learn to use these tools on their own. Studies also show that practicing gratitude can make us happier, so suggest activities to cultivate gratitude like journaling, counting your blessings, or writing thank-you letters.
6. Host an “everything you wanted to know about the EAP” event.
The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is one of the most underutilized benefits offered by employers. Ask the EAP vendor to create a short webinar on what your EAP provides. Consider adding an area on your intranet site or other company-wide communications tool that answers frequently asked questions about the EAP. You can also highlight all the EAP’s offerings in a virtual town hall or benefits fair. The key here is to make sure that people know exactly what your EAP offers and how they can access it.
7. Actively share content and stories about mental health.
Raise awareness of mental health by asking employees to post a link to an article that resonated with them. Ask your diversity, equity, and inclusion lead to share content on how race and socioeconomic status can exacerbate mental health concerns. Post “did you know” mental health statistics on the intranet leading up to October 10. Solicit employee stories about mental health struggles. The more we share these stories and articles, the more we normalize conversations about mental health in the workplace.
8. Hold a company-sponsored “mental health retreat.”
Allow employees to take the afternoon off on a Friday for a mental health break. Kick off the break with a group yoga or mindfulness session. Perhaps explore the possibility of moving to a four-day workweek. Iceland recently concluded a successful experiment that showed that working four days per week didn’t hurt productivity.
9. Schedule a pet meet-and-greet.
Studies show that interacting with pets can decrease the production of the stress hormone cortisol, while increasing levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin. Whether virtual or in-person, set aside a 15-minute block of time for employees to show off their pets. Or, combine happy hour with a pet meet-and-greet in a local park. Non-pet-owners can bring a stand-in of their choosing!
10. Sponsor a “What I Saw on My Walk” photo contest.
Spending time outside to breathe fresh air and feel the sun is a known mood-booster. If my neighborhood is any indication, a lot more people are walking these days, so make it fun by asking employees to post something they saw on their daily walk and offer prizes for the best photos.
How I support my team’s mental health.
Mental health is a topic that’s very close to my heart. In my leadership role at WebMD Health Services, I’ve put plenty of thought into creating a safe, supportive workplace for my team. For example, I try to ensure that my team knows that it’s OK to not be OK, and that they can share openly with me when they need a break. Acknowledging mental health struggles has become even more important as we all dealt with struggles exacerbated by the pandemic.
To support my own mental health, I’ve found it helpful to separate work and home life. And I try to model these boundaries and behaviors with my team as well. For example, we encourage one another to get outside for a quick walk or break during the work day, and we don’t feel pressured to stay online when we need to care for our kids throughout the day. Being fully empathetic, supportive and accepting at work has definitely reduced some of the stress we’ve all been facing.
Managing and supporting mental health in the workplace takes work. We hope you found some inspiration in these simple ways to raise awareness and participate in World Mental Health Day this year. In addition to sponsoring events like these, many companies are formalizing and prioritizing access to high-quality mental health solutions as they strategize their future benefits offerings. If you would like help creating a mental health approach for your organization, visit our website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.