Why your workplace needs a mental health ambassador

It's a key way for HR to help employers stamp out stigma around mental illness

Why your workplace needs a mental health ambassador

This year’s Mental Health Month focuses on employers’ role to have early intervention practices for their employees’ health and well-being.

“It is likely that at any given time, someone in your team will either be vulnerable to developing symptoms or will actually be experiencing them,” said Sally Kirkright, CEO or corporate psychology firm AccessEAP.

“As a manager, you are in a unique position to promote positive mental health at work.”

A good first step for organisations to reduce the stigma is to nominate a mental health ambassador.

“This is someone within the team who can have peer-to-peer conversations with colleagues about mental health issues and who can encourage them to seek help,” said Kirkright.

Warranty services and insurance protection provider Brightside, for instance, recently introduced the AccessEAP Ambassador Program. It aligned with the core company value of supporting each other in a non-judgmental way.

Tennille McCahon, human resource at Brightside, said they identified team members passionate about mental health and about making a positive impact.

“Our committee of ambassadors differ in age, position and gender,” McCahon said. “The program provides staff with alternative people to speak to if they have questions or issues and don’t feel comfortable approaching HR or a manager.”

“The ambassador program has helped to demonstrate that we take mental health seriously,” added McCahon.

Aside from appointing an ambassador, here are other ways employers can help create a safe and healthy environment for their workers:

  1. Have a conversation

You may be concerned about an employee’s particular behaviour in the workplace.
Initiate a private, confidential and supportive discussion with him or her. Create a comfortable space where there can be an honest conversation about what he or she is experiencing.

  1. Respect privacy

Any information an employee shares with you about mental health symptoms should never be disclosed to anyone else without their consent. Even if the employee goes on sick leave, he or she must be the one to decide what should be said to colleagues.

  1. Adjust and plan

Don’t assume that just because someone has mental health issues, they shouldn’t be at work. On the contrary, work provides purpose and meaning – a sense of achievement. See if you can slightly adjust their tasks or working hours to help them remain at work. Involve them while you plan this.

  1. Use non-judgemental language and stay calm

Keep your language supportive and positive. Be sensitive.  If someone feels judged about their mental health, this may stop them from getting help so try and. So lower your voice, listen and stay calm.

  1. Focus on strengths

People who live with mental health symptoms have the potential to be effective and productive members of their family, community, and workplace. Recognise your team members for what they contribute and the strengths they bring to their role at work.


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