Celebrities opening up about mental health helps me to do the same

Naomi Osaka, Prince Harry, Simone Biles – they're setting a new standard

Celebrities opening up about mental health helps me to do the same

Celebrities, athletes, and other influential people have begun opening up over their struggles on mental health - and are leading the charge to for more discussions in the workplace. Speaking to HRD, Jessi Crast, PhD Researcher at the Limeade Institute, revealed the intrinsic link between celebrities and employees discussing mental health at work.

“Over the last year and a half, we have experienced a major shift in the mental health conversation,” she told HRD. “This is largely due to the impact that the pandemic, social justice issues, varying working environments and more have had on us all. Now, as the conversation continues, we are seeing star athletes as well as celebrities contribute to these discussions and highlight the importance of taking care of your mental health. Whether it is Naomi Osaka, Prince Harry or Simone Biles, these public figures are helping to spread awareness of mental health struggles while allowing for a larger dialogue around why mental health is so important for everyone. By sharing their own personal experiences, these advocates are changing the mental health paradigm by normalizing open discussions and asking for help. As these conversations remain front and center in the media, employees may feel more comfortable opening up about their own experiences and workplaces will also be taking a look at their own mental health support practices.”

R U really OKAY?

Earlier this week, the world celebrated R U OKAY? – a day dedicated to opening up and speaking about employee mental health. And it seems the day couldn’t come quick enough. A recent survey from Qualtrics found that one third of employees are suffering from declining mental health – with women reporting 40% compared to men at 23%. Breaking down the taboo around mental health in the workplace has been HR’s mission for decades – and now, as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever.

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Limeade research shows that 30% of employees have disclosed a mental or emotional health issue in the workplace. However, 47% of those who disclosed an issue experienced a negative consequence for doing so. Why? It’s that lingering stigma.

“To improve employee mental health, employers need to strive to create workplace cultures that are based on trust and support,” added Crast. “Employees need to feel comfortable enough to open up about their own mental health experiences and know that there will be no repercussions for doing so. From there, it is imperative for employers to start a conversation of care, share mental health resources and prioritize well-being throughout their organization.”

Starting the conversation

Speaking about mental health doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. When you consider that everyone at one point in their lives will suffer from some sort of mental health issue, the taboo surrounding these discussions seems ridiculous. If an employee does approach you and discloses an issue, as an HR professional you have a duty of care – one which extends beyond mere acknowledgement.

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“While acknowledging mental health is the first step, more needs to be done to actually support the employee who has disclosed their challenge,” Crast told HRD. “This is the only way to truly create a culture of care. Employers can take action when employees open up about their mental health by providing them with support and resources. While employers cannot pressure an employee to use these benefits, it is important for the employee to know that they are there and how to access them.”

Preventing burnout at work

The pandemic has us all on the back foot – HR leaders in particular have found the past few months the most difficult of their careers. Over one third of employees have displayed signs of depression and anxiety since the pandemic took hold – 55% for those struggling financially. Burnout is also on the rise in Canada, with almost half of employees experiencing it on a daily basis. According to data from Microsoft, 47% of workers are left stressed and exhausted at the end of the day – contributing in no small part to the Great Resignation coming. To prevent yourself and your team from burnout, look for the obvious signs.

“Identifying burnout is the first step as many employees may avoid making that admission,” added Crast. “Once the manager and the employee have taken that step, they can work together to pinpoint the cause of burnout and begin developing a recovery plan. This is important because burnout does not only affect the employee’s experience at work but it also impacts their life outside of work. While vacation is great for mental health, it is not an end all be all solution if the employee is coming back to the same environment that caused them to experience burnout initially. To find a recovery plan that actually works, managers and employees will need to figure out what adjustments to make to alleviate the stress. They can then have frequent checkpoints to see if the changes are helping or if different changes need to be made.”

Remember – it’s okay to not be okay. If you or one of your team is struggling, please reach out to a medical professional or a mental health help line.

Mental health helplines in Canada

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service - 1-833-456-4566 (24/7) or text 45645 (4 pm to 12 am ET)
  • Wellness Together Canada - 1-866-585-0445 (Adults) or 1-888-668-6810 (Youth)
  • Hope for Wellness - 1-855-242-3310
  • Transgender Crisis Line - 1-877-330-6366
  • The Trevor Project - 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386)

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