In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we are turning the spotlight to FMP’s Wellness Committee. This committee is dedicated to planning organization-wide activities related to all types of wellness, including mental, physical, and financial. We asked a few members of the Wellness Committee to share some thoughts about Mental Health Awareness Month and practices they recommend for supporting their own mental health as well as that of others.
Why is Mental Health Awareness Month important?
Summer: Mental illness remains highly stigmatized in our culture, and we are still a long way from where we need to be in terms of normalizing and understanding the challenges people experience with mental health. Mental Health Awareness Month provides a reason for people to have discussions about mental health so others can learn and grow in their understanding of the pervasiveness and complexities of mental health challenges and start conversations about how to better care for ourselves, one another, and our communities.
Zoe: It’s a great opportunity to remind ourselves to have empathy, from the individual level all the way to the organizational and societal levels. It can also embolden people to be vulnerable and share their mental health stories, which can be freeing for the sharer while also reminding listeners that they are not alone in their struggles.
Bryanne: According to Mental Health America, 1 in 5 adults live with a mental health condition. Because we spend approximately 1/3 of our lives at work, the environment in which we work can have a significant influence on our mental and emotional well-being. Yet in one study, only 49% of respondents described their experience of talking about mental health at work as positive (Mind Share Partners 2021 Mental Health at Work).
What’s one habit you’ve implemented that has been beneficial for your mental health?
Summer: Dialectic thinking has changed my life. I have been learning to manage personal mental health issues and navigate my triggers over the last few years by practicing dialectical skills and mindfulness, and this has significantly improved my stress tolerance and quality of life.
Zoe: A consistent exercise routine is key for me, as it provides an opportunity for me to put effort into something physical and get out of my head. I generally work out before starting my work day, and I find that the exertion is mentally refreshing and energizing. I also find that a post-work workout helps me mentally transition into evening relaxation mode.
Bryanne: Sleep is incredibly important for the brain. I find that if I don’t get enough sleep, I feel anxious or overwhelmed. Getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night (which I know seems like a lot!) is very important for me. In our high-stress world, it is also important to set limits. It’s okay to say “no” and important to take time for yourself. Make sure to exercise, meditate, or do other activities that “refill your cup”.
What actions do you recommend for supporting mental health awareness in the workplace?
Summer: First and foremost, there should be a safe space to discuss mental health in the workplace. Oftentimes, the stigma attached to mental illness can prevent people from being their most authentic selves and compound the negative impact on a person’s life when they are struggling. I remember someone close to me laughing at the idea of “Mental Health PTO,” one of the benefits offered to me when I was a Family Care Counselor, and it opened a conversation about how caring for your mental health should not be seen as any less valuable than caring for your physical health. It is important that leaders consider mental health in every aspect of the organization, from benefits packages to cultural values to interpersonal interactions and beyond. We spend a significant portion of our lives at work, and organizations must respect that each employee is uniquely perceiving the human experience, both inside and outside of work.
Zoe: Make it known that you, as an individual, are a safe space! You never know who might be actively searching for someone who will listen to them. You don’t need to have all the answers or be able to fix the situation, you just need to be someone they trust.
Bryanne: Organizations must treat mental health as an organizational priority, with leaders and supervisors held accountable for creating a psychologically safe environment. In addition, supervisors can check in with direct reports regularly, asking open-ended questions and really listening to employee concerns. It is important for supervisors to try not to immediately “fix” problems or give advice. Employees and supervisors can then work together to come up with solutions. Also, organizations should promote flexibility and autonomy so that employees can set schedules that work for them.
Mental Health Resources:
- Free mental health screens and supports https://screening.mhanational.org
- Mental Health Tools and Fact Sheets https://www.mhanational.org/mental-health-month
- Parent and Child Resources https://www.mhanational.org/back-school
- Mental health quiz: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/quiz/index.htm
- Stress and coping resources: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/tools-resources/index.htm
Summer Sconyers is a Human Capital Consultant at FMP. She obtained her M.S. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Summer is currently enjoying her work on a variety of strategic initiatives, including employee engagement, change management, and survey development. In her free time, you will find Summer spending time in nature, listening to music, and spoiling her miniature poodle, Dexter.
Zoe Nerantzis joined FMP as a Consultant in May 2020 and works with the National Science Foundation team by supporting NSF’s learning and development branch. Zoe is from Rockville, Maryland and can generally be found reading fantasy novels, working out in her basement, or rooting for the Washington Football team.
Bryanne Cordeiro Reynolds, an I/O Psychologist, has been working at FMP for over 15 years. She provides human capital consulting services for several clients including the National Library of Medicine and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She also leads FMP’s wellness and charity programs, is a certified Pilates instructor, and spends most of her “free” time running around with her two children. When she’s not at the playground or baking, “healthy” treats with her kids, she loves to practice yoga, read, and drink coffee.