How Leaders Can Inspire Employees To Speak Up About Mental Health

As Bell Let’s Talk Day approaches, I feel that it is safe to say that mental health is no longer just a topic that we speak about once in a while, but it is now something that we have all experienced in our lives.

This pandemic has tested even the strongest of leaders, learning how to navigate rapid change, managing and supporting a large number of employees that need critical and ongoing support, searching for practical ways to maintain some sense of boundaries that allow them to prioritize self-care, while at the same time trying to maintain performance, and in some cases, even trying to aim higher.

As I continue to deliver keynotes and workshops on mental health, wellbeing, and resilience using tools inside of The Resilience Toolbox, leadership is constantly searching for ways to help their employees speak up about their mental health challenges in the workplace.

Leaders want to help their employees. They know they are struggling, but often struggle themselves to know what to do to help those employees seek the support they need.

Considering this, I wanted to share with you three tips to help you, in your role as a leader, to encourage others to speak up about mental health in the workplace.

Share Your Truth

Michal Bach and Brien Convery are two role models in my life. Both are leaders who are deeply passionate about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and walk the talk as they strive to create welcoming and inclusive environments for everyone to bring their best self to work.

Michael is the CEO of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, and Brien is the National Director of Early Talent Recruitment at RBC.

Each have demonstrated vulnerable leadership by sharing their truth.

Before the holidays, Michael published this video titled “You Are Loved” in his weekly series of Monday Morning Musings. In Michael’s video, he acknowledges “I am not ok”.

It is simple, short, and it’s honest. It helps show you that Michael is human, that he is also being challenged, and what stands out for me is that by letting his guard down, it gives others permission to do the same.

Brien recently shared this post in which he speaks about how many men have been told to “Man up” in life, often experiencing severe levels of neglect and negative emotions for a lack of love, or self love.

Brien went on to mention how the previous weekend he had his “the lowest of lows” and that he too was struggling.

I share my personal story today not for sympathy but to let others know it’s okay to not be okay and it is more than okay to talk about it.”

– Brien Convery

Neither post demonstrates that either leader is unfit for service, in crisis, or incapable of leading a company or thousands of students on an ongoing basis, but rather it demonstrates that “I am just like you”, and that “It’s ok to not be ok”.

Sharing and transparency is one of the biggest keys to making any organization successful.

When you share you build trust, and that’s what both leadership and employees are looking for.

Leaders can lead by sharing their truth.

Share Something Simple

Next, let me ask you, what would a “Mental Health Moment” look like for you? What is something that challenges you throughout the day?

For example, for those of you who have children, it can be very frustrating trying to manage your kids while in a virtual meeting. Creating boundaries can be extremely difficult, often embarrassing, and feel like there is no hope in the near future.

This is likely to remain a challenge for some of you for quite some time.

That said, what could you share about your day that others would relate to?

  • Maybe you couldn’t get a task completed on time.
  • Maybe you had to excuse yourself out of a Zoom meeting early.
  • Maybe your children are struggling as well, and you are concerned for their future since they are scared to even leave the house.
  • Maybe you haven’t been able to get a workout in for seven days in a row because the work demands have been so high.
  • Maybe you’re just plain old exhausted and need a break!

Ask yourself, “What is something simple that others can relate to?”.

As a leader, if you want to encourage others to speak up about their mental health struggles, share something simple. Share something that is relatable to your employees.

In order to lead and inspire others to speak up about mental health in the workplace, remember that employees need to be shown that their challenges are just as important as that which a leader may have.

Share Resources

Finally, amidst all that has been done over the last several months, we all need constant reminders about what resources are available both internally and externally that may help employees continue to strengthen and develop their mental resilience.

Internal communication must continue to keep resources top of mind.

Continue to speak about your Employee Assistance Programs (ESP) and Employee Family Assistance Programs (EFAP) such as Life Works and AbilitiCBT by Morneau Shepell.

Continue to speak up and remind employees about opportunities for restructured budgets to purchase items such as a standing desk (PrimeCables.ca – where purchased mine), an ergonomic chair (I have had my Zodiac chair for 14 years now, and it’s still amazing), or a Fitbit watch to help monitor activity and remind you to “get your steps in each day”.

Some employees also find value in external self directed programs such as Mind Beacon or the The Resilience Toolbox as a Learning Management Solution.

Whichever method you choose, continue to share what resources are working for you and your team.

What works for you outside of these resources above?

What resources have you leveraged that help you maintain your resilience as a leader?

Share it with others!

In Conclusion

Share is the key word here.

The conversation needs to continue at all levels, and in order for leadership to inspire employees to speak up about mental health, it begins by sharing in three simple steps.

1) Share Your Truth – Remember, transparency builds trust.

2) Share Something Simple – Something relatable, to your employees.

3) Share Resources – Again, again, and again…

By applying these three simple steps, not only will you be leading by example, but you will become a hero to your employees, and that is how you become a hero in your own movie.

Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you develop a resilient mindset:

How To Be Resilient .1 Step At A Time

How To Get Yourself “Back On Schedule”

What To Do When Nothing Is Going Right

Download your FREE copy of my autobiography, Still Standing: When You Have Every Reason to Give Up, Keep Going here.

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