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How employers can actively support mental health awareness

We are fortunate the concept of “mental health” doesn’t carry the stigma it once did.  

Historically, we haven’t talked openly  about mental health issues. And more so,  if someone was dealing with mental health  issues, we did not have an environment  where people could be open about it.  

Thankfully, that is changing: Talking about  mental health is no longer taboo. 

During the COVID-19 quarantines, we  saw that employees and, more generally,  the public were emotionally affected  by the stress brought on by the global  pandemic. Their emotional well-being  could be challenged from any number of  perspectives, including financial security,  living situations, remote work and physical  health, among others. 

These aren’t new concepts or challenges,  but they are now at the forefront of  employee wellness programs, creating  an opportunity for companies to do the right thing.  

What we have seen at many companies are  more flexible, hybrid work environments:  an employee-centric approach, giving them flexibility to work in ways and manners  that can optimize their performance.  We have also seen greater empathy from  managers and leaders.

When our employees are healthy in mind and body, they are more productive. They think better.

Let me be clear — it is not entirely altruistic. This environment of supporting the mental well-being of employees also has tangible business benefits. When our employees are healthy in mind and body, they are more productive. They think better. And that is also better for the company.  In fact, one study indicates that when your brain power is positive, your brain works 31% better. Sounds like a win for the employee. And a win for the employer. 

At Experian, we have initiated a company wide effort to address mental health. This is championed by our CFO Lloyd Pitchford, who serves as the global executive sponsor and advocate for Mental Health.

There are multiple layers to the program:

  • Mental Health First Aiders: We established a program to train employees (volunteers) who could serve as Mental Health First Aiders. We started rolling out this in 2022 and now have over 400 people who have registered to become professionally trained volunteers. Their role is to support Experian colleagues who are experiencing mental-health illness or distress and connect them with support.  
  • We launched our #WholeMe: Your Mind Matters campaign to all employees during Mental Health Awareness month. This effort was designed to break the stigma surrounding mental health challenges, and a way to lean into the “it’s ok not to be ok” mantra. This global campaign has been shortlisted as a finalist in the global Gartner Communications Awards 2022 in the category Excellence in ESG, Sustainability and DEI Communications.  
  • ASPIRE, Experian’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) established Mindful Meditation Mondays, 30-minute meditation sessions hosted by internal employees who are licensed yoga instructors. The sessions are frequented by hundreds of people and the comments are overwhelmingly positive. 

I’m personally in the process of becoming a Mental Health First Aider. I am finding it rewarding to be a part of this community and am grateful my company has invested in these kinds of opportunities.  

Regardless of how you or your company are stepping up and leaning in, it’s important as leaders, communicators, strategists, managers and humans that we give mental health the respect and attention it deserves.