A study conducted by Deloitte during the second wave of Covid-19, revealed India to be among the top 18 countries experiencing anxiety.
PwC's 2021 Employee Financial Wellness Survey revealed that 63% of employees experienced stress caused by financial strain since the start of the pandemic. This raises concerns, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Change can be brought by the collective efforts of employees and employers. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, “for people with mental health conditions, decent work can contribute to recovery and inclusion, improve confidence and social functioning.” If that is the case, there is hope for us all, and mental health advocates seem to be the light-bearers.
But first, who are mental health advocates?
Simply put, mental health advocates are persons that advocate for mental health. In the context of a workplace, these are individuals that take into account the specific and general mental health concerns of the workforce, offer peer support, raise awareness and act as negotiators or mental health champions between the administration and workforce with the aim of ensuring workplace well being of employees. Such mental health advocates are usually the employees of the organizations themselves. While an organization may designate mental health advocates, it does not always do so. If your organization does not have designated or trained mental health advocates, you should consider taking matters into your own hands and forming an employee resource network of mental health advocates.
Here’s how to do it:
Open communication with the management
The first step is to have open discussions with the management about the need for mental health advocates in the organization. The resource group must put forward a rough draft of a proposal outlining the details and benefits of the same to the management. As the conversations move forward, the management and employees must figure out the details of the proposal. For this, volunteers must come forward as representatives of the employees or mental health advocates, and negotiate with the management.
Create a mental health advocate manifesto
Once the proposal is approved and mental health advocates are in place, a ‘mental health advocate manifesto’ must be formed. It must contain the objectives, vision, aims and detailed policies for providing sufficient employee support. The manifesto must also contain detailed roles and responsibilities of mental health advocates themselves. While detailing policies, it is necessary to take into account not just general mental well-being of all employees, but also leave room to address should specific needs arise among employees suffering from specific mental health conditions.
Request training from your organization
As a ‘designated’ mental health advocate in an organization, you would have ‘extra work’ to see to. In order to achieve the goals mentioned in the organization’s manifesto, you must request the management to organize training sessions for mental health advocates to achieve the goals you set out to conquer as a mental health champion.
If you are, or want to be a mental health advocate at your workplace, we at Manah Wellness offer emotional wellbeing resources to employees to make them thrive at work and otherwise. These resources also include customized support for employees to ensure that every employee’s specific needs are met.
After the framework for mental health advocates is set into place, it is now time to educate all the employees of the organization about the vision and mission of the mental health manifesto, the roles of the mental health advocates, the protection and ‘rights’ of employees, what they can expect etc., towards achieving better employee support and mental wellbeing.
Mental health advocates must be approachable and take a problem-solving approach. It is impossible to witness improvement in the work environment without open and empathetic communication between the advocates and employees, and the advocates and the management. If an employee requests support on their specific need, a mental health advocate must attend to it. Occasionally volunteers must be invited to join the team of mental health advocates to bring in fresh human resources.
While it is advised that support groups be formed by employees amongst themselves to support each other, and a separate mental health advocate committee be formed to review progress and achievements in mental health advocacy, a talk circle must be formed at the intersection of the management, mental health advocates and the rest of the employees. Regular discussions must be held among the three parties to raise concerns and solve each group’s problems effectively.
Every employee values a safe, stigma-free work environment. Such an environment also has much to say about the management and the organisation. An employee that feels that their interests are met at work, likes coming to work and experiences greater job satisfaction. In fact, employees who have previously experienced trauma may be able to process it better at a safe workplace. Consequently, the organization too witnesses better employee performance, greater scope for innovation and productivity, lesser absenteeism and improved goodwill in the eyes of its employees and customers.