How to bring mental health into the boardroom

While mental health is at the forefront of the HR agenda, it's rarely discussed in the C-suite

How to bring mental health into the boardroom

According to a report from Morneau Shepell, 31% of employees suffer from depression, with a further 28% calming to have anxiety.

Whilst dealing with mental health has always been at the heart of HR’s people strategy, it’s rarely discussed at length at C-Suite level. Securing Board buy-in for mental health initiatives can seem like pulling teeth sometimes – and yet, one CEO is determined to showcase his dedication to the cause.

Speaking to Stephen Liptrap, CEO and president of Morneau Shepell, his enthusiasm for change rang out.

“It’s essential that organizations do all they can to remove the stigma,” he told us. “I always use the example that if someone walks into an office with a broken leg, we all know what to do, what to say and how to act. But when someone walks into a room who has a mental health issue – many of us panic and leave them alone, which is not necessarily the right response.”

Repeating the mantra of ‘dedication to mental health’ without following it up with any proactive initiatives is a waste of time and effort. Liptrap believes that in order to really help employees at risk, HR needs to put in place on the job training for managers.

“Having mental health training for employees and managers is critical and easy to do,” he said. “It makes so much of a difference. When we ran it for our own leadership team here, we thought we would spend an hour on the topic and we actually spent three hours because people had so many questions.

“Specifically, when looking at training for managers, it’s all about being aware of when their employees are suffering with mental health issues. They need to be able to recognize the tell-tale signs, be able to know what to say and what to do in order to be as helpful as they can.

“Make sure you have the resources available on a confidential basis, such as Employee and Family Assistance Programs (EFAP), which offers an anonymous way for someone to reach out and ask for help or advice. The more companies can make people aware of these programs, the more chance we have of supporting our workers.”

Looking to the future of inclusive benefits at large, Liptrap believes the key to success lies in embracing technology.

“We need to make things easier and more accessible from a personal device,” he added. “The three hardest words in the English language are ‘I need help’. So, if I can make initiatives and support available to my employees at the push of a button, it’s going to make a huge difference. Simplifying connections, making it okay to reach out and ask for help, that’s where we’re heading.”

The trend in emerging HR technology is leaning toward mobile applications. With an increase in the uptake of AI and Big Data, organizations are now embracing the ‘self-help’ approach to benefits and eLearning.

If we think of employees as consumers, be it of well-being programs or online training, we’re seeing a sort of Netflix-style approach to development; where employees can select their next step from a variety of options, predicted by their previous search. This instant connectivity could potentially give firms a huge helping hand in dealing with mental health.

“We’ve helped remove so much of the stigma around mental health,” added Liptrap. “We’ve done more recently than throughout history -  but we’ve still a way to go.”


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