Allison Mayer, SHRM-SCP
May 17, 2022

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. You may respond, so what? Why prioritize mental health for a whole month? What value does it have, professionally or personally?

I have heard and asked these questions countless times myself. This past year I humbly took the challenge to personally dive deeper into this subject and consciously strive to improve my mental health. I researched and practiced, and noticed the value of strong, sustainable healthy habits and relationships. I tried to incorporate improvements anywhere feasible, even if small, and have the courage to keep digging deeper and to continue becoming a better version of myself.

I also turned the question around - what is the effect of undervalued mental health? Statistics show the sobering effects of poor mental health. In the workplace, these include absenteeism, presenteeism, and lost productivity.1 Fortunately, the subject of mental health is commanding more attention, and the negative stigma around mental health conversations is decreasing. The American Psychiatric Association found 62% of Millennials are comfortable discussing their mental health issues. This is an encouraging trend, because we can see and measure the positive effects of good mental health in the workplace, school and home.

So how can we value and prioritize our mental health? Can we recognize if we are healthy, and honestly admit when we are not? Research shows that self-awareness, a strong support system, and increased education tend to strengthen one’s mental health.2 Promoting and providing a safe environment for yourself and others is a great beginning, and many experts offer concrete ideas as to how. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Give yourself grace. If you are doing your best in that moment, that is enough for now.
  2. Cut others some slack. I do not know what is happening in their world, and as my Dad used to say with a smile, “It’s not your business, Kid.”
  3. Give yourself permission to say, “No,” or walk away. Your boundaries are yours, just like their boundaries are theirs.
  4. Laugh more. I recall a heated discussion when someone said to me, “You’re not such a peach to live with yourself sometimes.” We both stopped and laughed; it helped keep perspective and open communication.
  5. Learn more. You decide how and why. When you get feedback, ask yourself, “How much does their opinion matter to me?” If the answer is a lot, then grow and improve, both for yourself and for the relationship.
  6. Live now. If these past two years and recent months have taught us anything, life is short and precious. Are you holding back from change due to fear? Are you not speaking up due to anxiety? You can improve and invest in yourself, even if in a small way.
  7. Find support. We need each other and someone else needs you. If you are at work and need help, ask someone (and respect their response). Like strong bookends - no matter how far apart – we are more effective together.

Value is in perspective. It is in a company’s best interest to invest in its people. For mental health tools, telehealth or other resources, check with your firm’s Human Resources or EAP Department, medical provider or local/national resources.

Here’s to our mental health.

1Forbes, July 7, 2021, Mainul Mondal.

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