How to be a Mental Health Ally

Two arrows meeting in the middle

According to a 2021 Harvard Business Review study, sixty-eight percent of Millennials (50% in 2019) and 81% of Gen Zers (75% in 2019) have left roles for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily, compared with 50% of respondents overall (34% in 2019). Ninety-one percent of respondents believed that a company’s culture should support mental health, up from 86% in 2019.

We’ll be the first to admit we don’t always get it right, but we’re trying. Supporting mental health, while also balancing the demands of the work and industry we’re in…it’s tough but we’re committed to getting it right. 

Whether you are a business trying to support your employees or an employee working to support your co-workers, we all have a role to play.

It starts here.

Have a Conversation

A convo seems simple, but it’s anything but. Most of us avoid confronting things that make us uncomfortable, so chatting with another person about how they are feeling just feels icky and terrifying. We all need to combat the stigma around the subject because the odds are you know someone — a colleague, a family member, a friend, a client, or coworker who is experiencing a mental health challenge.

Harvard Business Review points out we can help each other by being mental health allies. What exactly is an ally? It means you see someone struggling and you step forward to remind them they are valued and needed.

It could be as simple as asking how they’re doing and then asking them again when they give the generic “fine” answer. If you notice someone is off, ask them if they’d be open to talking about their struggles and support them by asking whether and how you can help.

As an employer, let them know it’s okay to not be okay. Remind them of any benefits or resources your company or health-care plan provides. 

Invest in Resources

Businesses can no longer ignore the effects a 2-year pandemic has had on their employees. Many companies are stepping up and providing extra paid time off, company-wide mental health days and mental health training. Interestingly enough, many employees are not taking advantage of the additional accommodations, because what they want more than anything else is an open culture around mental health. 

It all starts at the top, leadership needs to set an example by being open about their own struggles. The goal should be to foster an open and transparent culture and remove the fear and shame so often associated with mental health struggles. 

Commit to the Long Game

There is no miracle solution, be prepared to continually adapt how you respond and approach conversations around the subject. If you put temporary policies in place to address the struggles you were seeing, make them permanent.

It’s your responsibility to ensure your team has the resources and bandwidth necessary to do their jobs effectively while remaining mentally healthy.

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