May 26 2021

How to effectively talk with your team about mental healthcare

By Accolade

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Conversations regarding mental well-being can be very difficult – especially in the workplace. It can be hard to even know where to start with these conversations. That is why we sought the insight of Benjamin F. Miller, PsyD and Chief Strategy Officer at Well Being Trust . Dr. Miller is a nationally recognized mental health expert, author of the weekly newsletter Mental , and a public speaker who has presented around the world on the importance of making mental health an integrated and integral part of healthcare. 

We asked Dr. Miller to share his expertise on how organizations can take a proactive approach to mental health discussions with their employees. He provided four tips to help ensure these talks are positive, open and don’t get too awkward:

1. Use inclusive language.

It can be easy for a person to feel alone when they are experiencing any form of mental illness. That’s why it is key to ensure organizations use language that is inclusive to everyone. This effort can help make an uncomfortable conversation a whole lot easier and prevents anyone from feeling left out or marginalized because of their experience or situation.

“People should not be ostracized for having a harder time than others,” said Dr. Miller. Here are some ways to incorporate inclusive language into conversation:

  • Use person-first speech (“a person with depression” opposed to “a depressed person”)

  • Acknowledge that people are more than their struggles

  • Employ gender-neutral terms where possible, and especially in the context of mental health

  • Refer to actual diagnoses (PTSD or depression) rather than outmoded language (feeling crazy, acting psycho, etc.)

2. Lead by example.

When leaders are open about their own stories and struggles, it provides an opportunity for employees to be honest and comfortable explaining their own experiences. 

“Tell your own story,” said Dr. Miller. “Leaders should lead by example.”   Communication is a two-way street. It is important for both parties to be willing to share and be open about the topic of mental health. Leaders can make an impact throughout their organizations on many levels – not least by normalizing discussions about mental health challenges among team members. 

3. Give solutions that employees can really use.

As leaders, it is important to be thoughtful about the interventions utilized with employees. “We need to be authentic and make these mental health offerings a part of the workflow – not something that you have to work harder to get access to,” explained Dr. Miller.

One example of this is the Blue Dot program at Google. It’s almost as simple as it sounds. Some Googlers have a blue dot on their name tag – or now because of COVID-19, a blue dot in their email signature. 

This dot represents a network of team members that are available to simply listen to those who reach out to them. The goal is to make it okay to talk about mental health, in the hopes that it will destigmatize conversations surrounding mental well-being.

By implementing this program directly into the culture of their organization, Google breaks down barriers and brings team members together. Programs like this can be implemented in your business, too. Be creative, think about what works well with your team and create opportunities for positive and open conversations surrounding mental healthcare and well-being.

“The key is to provide resources in a way that does not come off as concerning. It’s all about how you communicate what you have to offer. It should be a natural part of the culture and not just a one-off program or sending someone off somewhere else to receive help,” Dr. Miller explained. 

4. Always be authentic.

It is vital for leadership to be true to themselves and to set an example. We are all human, and we all go through various life experiences.

Sometimes those experiences require additional help from a doctor or therapist. Just as we go to a physician to examine our physical health, it is okay to get an evaluation on our mental health as well. 

Unfortunately, employees too often feel that discussing their mental health can be seen as a weakness. By showing that leadership is also human and experiences similar hardships, organizations can destigmatize these conversations and build a strong culture supporting the whole employee. 

“It is less about the programs offered at an organization and more about how it is shared with the team. Leaders should communicate in a way that doesn’t make it seem like a weakness or moral failing,” said Dr. Miller.

As leaders, it is important to open the door to having these kinds of conversations – even though they can be uncomfortable at times. You can utilize these four tips to take a proactive approach to supporting mental well-being at your organization today.

For more information on how Accolade can support your team and provide access to mental healthcare resources, visit https://accolade.com/solutions/