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The HR Scoop

Making Mental Health Mainstream, Part 2

Season 1
December 10, 2020

Andrea Herron 00:03
When future talent is deciding to apply for a job, what are their most important considerations? Well, if they’re like most of us right after the job description and salary range your employee benefits page is going to be next. The reason is simple. Employees directly relate benefits to their overall perception of well being. And HR leaders are constantly adapting their benefit offerings to meet the needs of their evolving workforces. But let’s be honest, some employee benefits are way more interesting than others. Hi, I’m Andrea Herron, head of people for WebMD health services. And I’d like to welcome you to the HR scoop. On this podcast, I talk with other HR leaders to explore the world of unique employee benefits, and about the challenges of managing unique workforces, because well being isn’t a one size fits all approach. In part two of this special two part episode of the HR scoop with Sheila Hamilton, we continue discussing mental health issues, including some unsettling mental health trends that have grown throughout the pandemic. Yeah, and that has ripple effects. Because let’s say we take the most progressive companies who are doing this work, and people really appreciate it. When they do transition out to their next career, they’re going to have those expectations with them. And so it starts to ripple out and eventually, you know, over time, becomes more prevalent, although I will say there’s been an exponential increase this year, just given all the curveballs 2020 has thrown at us. Yeah,

Sheila Hamilton 01:43
right. I was just speaking last week at the National Alliance of health care providers. And I think the statistic that I heard is three and 10. Millennial employees and younger have left jobs because their company was not attending to mental health. And so what companies are going to have to start thinking about is, okay, we may have had to lay off a few of our employees, and we really want to keep the best and the brightest, this is going to be a huge retention issue. If if younger employees don’t feel supported in this area, you may lose them to another company, that’s made it a priority.

Andrea Herron 02:18
Absolutely. It will start to rank up there with all the other benefits. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. So I’m curious as you’ve integrated into these different organizations, you know, what type of feedback have you gotten? And is there kind of a particular topic or episode that has really stood out across the board?

Sheila Hamilton 02:37
Yeah, I mean, one of the things that I thought was very brave is we have you no private businesses, and then, you know, nonprofits and municipalities and the mayor of Beaverton had approached me to say, I’m behind this 100%. And I, I want to do whatever I can to make this very successful. So we put the library up. And, you know, people were starting to listen to different things that resonated with them based on what they were going through. But it was really only when he did an interview where he talked about the suicide of a person very close to him, and how it impacted him, that our engagement just went through the roof. He used, not graphic detail, but he used enough detail so that people knew that it had impacted him in a way that he didn’t know whether he had the skills to recover from it. He had talked about coping with depression in his family afterward. And I thought that it was such a brave thing to do in front of all of these employees who might have judgment one way or the other, as to whether you’re a good leader or not a leader, and he just did it. And our assessment of how well the program had been working, our platform had been working went from like 30% involvement at the very beginning to almost 79% immediately. So that goes right back to what I was describing, which is, is that if somebody in the organization is brave enough to say, this is a reason why I am so wholly invested in this idea that we all need this information to be able to live better. It changes changes people’s minds, it changes people’s involvement, it changes their energy around it. So

Andrea Herron 04:26
when it goes back to those personal stories, I mean, the more you can be authentic and genuine, especially as a leader, the more relatable you are, the more you gain trust. I mean, there’s so many positive benefits that come not just from the one recording or session and on this one topic, but again, that ripple effect of I see you as a leader and a person who has real feelings and now I feel like I can relate to you better. It just creates an entirely different working environment. Yeah, and I

Sheila Hamilton 04:54
and I will tell you the one of the most fabulous like ripple effects of that disclosure was that there, there’s a large number of Hispanics who work and be returned in in the Hispanic population mental health concerns are not talked about very much just because there’s a real machismo ethic among the males. And this young Hispanic man who was really considered a superstar in their IT, division came forward and told the story about how he nearly died by suicide, because he was so ashamed to talk about the fact that he was suffering from depression. And because of that, many other Hispanics came forward who were also in a similar situation and who worked the city and then they ended up forming a support group. So it’s, it’s surprising to me how the ripple effect doesn’t just change, you know, one person’s life, you always say, if I do something, and one person’s life can be changed, it will be worth it. No, this this actually emanates out into the neighborhoods. And so now that group of people who formed at the city have kind of a church support group for people who might be struggling with mental health conditions, run through the local Catholic Church. And I’m thrilled, that’s exactly what I want our product to do is just be the conversation starter and the way that people can get the language and to understand how to speak openly and respectfully about mental health conditions in a way that maybe, you know, the concentric circles are going to keep growing throughout our communities. Yeah,

Andrea Herron 06:39
that’s absolutely an opportunity to make a real difference and a real impact to the community. And that’s what we all want, I hope to make a difference like that. And I know, you know, from my own research and experience in the world that you know, anxiety and depression are serious conditions. And in terms of mental health, they are more common and you know, more commonly discussed more recently, being D stigmatized, more and more, but what in your experience, have you seen kind of pop up as an underrated mental health topic that you don’t think is really talked about enough?

Sheila Hamilton 07:13
Right now, in particular, I’m just so concerned about, you know, kind of what we want to call this last generation, you know, kids who lost that last year of high school because of COVID. They’re going into their first year of college, working remotely concerned about catching COVID If they are on campus, alienated from the college experience, and also extremely concerned about their economic futures. Two, in 10, people under the age of 35, have lost their jobs. And that’s a huge chunk out of this very enthusiastic and kind of inventive and creative workforce. That’s a, that’s a, that’s a major chunk of people who were already sort of like making their first inroads into the world. And so I’m so concerned that, because they’re young people are kind of shoving it off as they’ll get over it, they’ll, they’ll find other ways of coping, but college counseling centers are overwhelmed, they are at capacity. And many of these kids do not have access to on site counseling or other private counseling through their parent’s insurance, because their parents have also lost their jobs. And so I am super concerned about this young consumer who might have been really willing to try to get mental health care, but there’s been one sort of traumatic slap at them after another. And I just don’t like the statistics that I’m seeing in terms of attempted suicide or suicide. And I and I don’t like how we as a nation, pretend that it’s going to be alright without giving them the skills for how to be alright. Yeah, the

Andrea Herron 09:10
long term consequences are quite scary and unknown at this point. So given your work in the field, do you have any particular tool or tips you’ve seen work well, to help people stay grounded and protect their mental health, especially this year?

Sheila Hamilton 09:28
Well, you know, the, the very first thing that I would say is, you have to be willing to talk about your own mental health in order to have a real conversation with someone else about theirs. And so if you’re a parent and you’re noticing that your high school senior or your, you know, college freshman or the person just out of college and looking for a job seems more withdrawn or depressed, one of the sayings that I think is most effective is to say, Man, this has been a real really hard year for me. This is how it’s impacted me. And sometimes this is what my thoughts are. And I have to work really hard to try to shore myself up. How are you doing? You know? Because if you just go, how are you doing? They have no idea kind of what realm you want, how deep you want them to go, they have, they have no, especially if you haven’t had these conversations previously, where there’s been some level of emotional intelligence in the home, they have no idea how to even begin this conversation, right. So if you give them first of all, a sort of vulnerable peek into your own psyche, it kind of gives them the sort of grounding place for that. And then by asking questions with a lot of empathy, and withholding any judgment for how much time they’re spending on their phone, or how it is they are self soothing right now, by asking real open ended questions about how do you think I could support you? Right now? Is there anything that perhaps I could be doing that might make this time just a little bit easier? Is it helpful for you, when we go get an ice cream together? Or we go, you know, for a walk together? Is it helpful for you? What if I turn up the music and we dance, I mean, what kind of things would actually be helpful for me to do for you right now. And then certainly, if the person is, is forthcoming, that they are struggling, I think it’s really underestimated how much help especially young people need in figuring out how to access the mental health system. It isn’t like when you break your leg, and everybody knows to go to the ER, you know, finding who providers are finding which providers are covered. for low income folks, finding which services are free, and in the neighborhood, is a really daunting task, especially when someone is anxiety ridden, or depressed. And so I would just offer to be that person who will help I can make the appointment, I can check with the insurance, I can check with people that are for free and low income, I can drive you, I can sit and wait in the car. If you want to do it by zoom, here’s how the connection works. And I can make sure you have a laptop to do it. You know, that kind of help is super, super crucial. When a when a young person is suffering because they’re often so confused and so lacking in energy that they don’t know how to access the help themselves.

Andrea Herron 12:33
Yeah, and to help and make it easy and more accessible. I agree, you’re going to have a much better outcome than saying, well just Google it and do all the research when you’re already maybe on the edge there. And I do really like your advice about acknowledging, hey, this is a tough time, this is hard versus falling victim to toxic positivity and brushing it off and just like it’s fine, it’s fine. Just get through it, you know, Becca move along. Right? And also the point of, you know, how are you fine? How are you fine, nobody is going to understand that you actually want to go deeper unless you explicitly set it up like that, because we’re just, we’re all wired to be like, yep, everything’s great. In your mind. You’re like, it’s not great, but I you probably don’t want to hear how it’s really going. Right? I’m just gonna say it’s great.

Sheila Hamilton 13:19
Yeah. But I would say especially for parents right now, just you know, Mental Health America did a private survey of young people and their responses are chilling. It’s chilling what people are experiencing and willing to tell a pollster just in terms of bout, you know, have you ever thought of harming yourself worse? We’re seeing Yes, rates that are at a rate we’ve never seen before in the history of Mental Health America doing these polls. And, and I, I really think it’s crucial, especially given how many kids can just wear that mask of fine, I’m fine. Everything’s fine to dig beneath what fine means.

Andrea Herron 14:04
Absolutely. Well, thank you for those tips and all of sharing all of your experience and background with our listeners, that would really appreciate it. But before I let you go, I would like to ask you one final question that I asked all of our guests. And that is to tell us something about yourself that other people might not know. I think this is

Sheila Hamilton 14:25
pretty easy. Since there are very few pictures of this time.

Andrea Herron 14:31
We get more grace, you know.

Sheila Hamilton 14:33
But I grew up in rural Utah in a small town and we our family was very much into rodeo and so from the time I was about seven years old, I participated in barrel racing and pole racing and, and junior Queen contests all the way into high school as you know, Miss America and rodeo type experience and so what I look back at that time in my life where I was, you know got a speeding horse going in around Reno waving at people with a big cowboy hat on I think people would be shocked to know that about me but it’s a it’s a really fun and exciting time to look back on and I still love getting on a horse anytime there’s one available I’ll I’ll go on even bareback

Andrea Herron 15:19
that’s awesome yeah What a fun way to grow up so liberating just free yeah there. Yeah it was one I wish we had the photo.

Sheila Hamilton 15:28
I could probably scratch up some but pretty funny that I was quite short for a long time. That’s probably one other thing people don’t know for a person who go to five grew to 510 I was I had a growth spurt way late in my life. So

Andrea Herron 15:43
I’m still waiting for mine. But that’s awesome. Wonderful. Great. Thank you for sharing that in for your time today. We really appreciate it

Sheila Hamilton 15:54
was wonderful to speak with you and I hope somehow someone heard at least one thing that might change their minds and make them more committed to to upping the benefits for mental health at your organization.

Andrea Herron 16:09
Thank you for listening to the HR scoop podcast. Please take a moment to rate and subscribe on Spotify, Apple, Google or directly at WebMD health services.com/podcasts

The HR Scoop

Humanizing Well-Being, Part #2

Season 2
July 22, 2021
The HR Scoop

Humanizing Well-Being, Part 1

Season 2
July 14, 2021

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