When I accepted a job as Chief Marketing Officer at a new company a few months ago, I didn’t waste time telling my employees that I was struggling with anxiety and depression. The results were huge.
As a way to introduce myself, I held a “Ask Anything” session. Most recently I did one the first time I faced my team in Brazil. It didn’t take long before they asked me about my mental health.
I shared stories of being bullied as a child and trying to bury all the trauma deep in my mind as I got older. When he became Chief Marketing Officer at the age of 30 and achieved his career goals, he looked around and couldn’t understand why he was unhappy. On the surface everything seemed to be going well. It was only then that I began to realize that career success was not the antidote to what I was supposed to think. So I started working on it all – therapy, medication, meditation, etc.
Sharing this with the staff helped unlock the floodgates. Some began to share their stories. They talked about stress, difficulties during epidemics, and experiences with mental illness. Conversation has put our relationship on the right footing.
We have a global workforce with employees across North and South America and Europe. As more and more teams met, they engaged in similar, public conversations.
Making mental health a topic we can talk about without stigma is more important than ever. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that an epidemic has triggered a pandemic. 25% increase on anxiety and depression. all report A Boston University study last fall found that rates of depression in the United States tripled in early 2020 and will continue to rise in 2021, affecting one in three American adults.
Stigma often prevents people from recognizing their own psychological difficulties. I ignored them because I saw them as signs of weakness. Businesses can go a long way in ending this stigma.
McKinsey’s Survey discovery While 79% of employees say an anti-stigma awareness campaign for mental health will be worthwhile, only 23% of employers have a campaign. “Also, while top management-led communications can be an effective tool to increase support awareness and reduce mental health stigma, only a quarter of employers report using this channel,” the report says.
In my experience, a “campaign” doesn’t have to be a complex effort. Management can start by opening the door. But it can be particularly difficult for senior management to do.
in report for Harvard Business Review, three researchers shared the results of an analysis they conducted focused on the leadership style of executives. They found that “the best leaders are the sharers.” They define them as people who “openly admit their fears, stresses, and other negative emotions.”
Sharing negative emotions can reduce the impact of those emotions on the leader. Build empathetic relationships with your employees. Encourage others to open their hearts. They wrote to help people overcome their difficulties. All of this has strong results. “ultimately boosting Morale and Performance across the Organization”
Despite these benefits, however, many executives are reluctant to share “according to the widely held assumption that true leaders must always be aspirational and results-oriented, and that acknowledging negative emotions is a sign of weakness”.
If my experience proves it, it’s worth it to have the courage to confide in your inner turmoil. We all need to normalize these challenges as simply being human.
To be sure, opening up my new company, Gympass, can be easier than with executives from other companies. Because Gympass well-being. However, I’ve done similar work at a previous company that didn’t focus on wellness and had similarly strong results.
Of course, these conversations are just the beginning. Prioritizing employee well-being in an organization goes through a series of steps. (See list of essentials Here.) This month is an especially good opportunity if you are looking to build a mental health program in your workplace. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and organizations including the Center for Workplace Mental Health, part of the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, offer: tool kit and resources.
These days, there’s a lot of talk about how people should be able to use their “full body” for work. The “whole self” includes the whole mind. Everyone benefits when we embrace it and embrace opportunities to improve the mental well-being of our employees.