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John Boyd: Leadership Thoughts to Share

Our 36th annual conference included an increasing number of attendees associated with commercial insurance and hospital systems. One such attendee was John Boyd, System Executive Mental Health. CEO, Sutter Solano Medical Center & Sutter Center for Psychiatry. When discussing what he took away from the conference, Dr. Boyd stated, “I believe we need to slow down and really listen to people who have lived the experience of a personal mental health crisis, and also those who have supported a friend or loved one. Their powerful perspectives are essential to any discussion on health, and can lead us on a healing journey.” He was inspired to share the CMHACY message to his staff and colleagues through LinkedIn. His message to employers is targeting a new but growing mental health stakeholder member of the CMHACY “family” and worthy of sharing with other CMHACY members.

Comments to this article can be sent to advocacy@cmhacy.org and will be forwarded to Dr. Boyd. The CMHACY board also welcomes guest writers to submit articles of interest to the CMHACY membership to advocacy@cmhacy.org They will be shared as appropriate and as space allows.

Mental health in the workplace: It’s time for action

John Boyd, PsyD, FACHE,

Every one of us is affected by mental health challenges – our own, a coworker’s, a loved one’s, or through interactions in the larger community. Yet even after decades of research and education, we as a society still don’t get it: real progress won’t come until we remove the stigma and social prejudice towards people who have mental health challenges. One of the best places to do that is in the workplace.

A couple of years ago, in the aftermath of a colleague’s death by suicide, the “what ifs” ran through my mind: What if we had been trained to recognize the signs a coworker was having trouble? What if companies taught suicide prevention skills and encouraged employees to talk openly about mental health challenges without judgment? What if people learned about resiliency and how to be healthy?

It became clear to me that the workplace is where we can make a tremendous impact on the mental health skills of millions of people. Most adults spend more time at work than in any other setting – and more time with colleagues than family members. It’s where others become familiar to us (and if we’re lucky, like family to us), where we have daily interactions that allow us to see individuals who are struggling and need support.

The truth is, we need to ensure supervisors, managers, union leaders, HR professionals and others, have training that raises awareness, and teaches effective strategies to address workplace issues early and effectively as they support all of us in this community where we do our work.

We need more business leaders to participate in the conversation. Yes, they need to understand teaching mental health resiliency, and addressing workplace issues early and effectively is the right thing to do, but they must also be aware that not appropriately addressing the issues comes with a considerable cost, both within their workforce and to the entire community.

One study I’ve looked at, from the Center for Prevention and Health Services, estimates that lost productivity and absenteeism due to unaddressed mental health challenges costs American employers $80 billion-$100 billion a year. That’s an eye-opening statistic, and evidence that having real respect for mental health and a supportive environment makes strong, solid business sense.

We know that mental health is an issue that affects us all, old, young, and those in between. Rich and poor, in all regions of the country, it really is all around us. We need to slow down and really listen to people who have lived the experience of facing a personal mental health crisis, and also those who have supported a friend or loved one. Their powerful perspectives are an essential part of the discussion. If we allow them, they will lead the way on a healing journey.

All of us in the workforce need to understand what to do when we or our colleagues need support. And by gaining skills around mental health early on, we might be able to avoid a crisis in the first place.

We all need to understand, at the end of the day, there really is no health without mental health.

So let’s continue the conversation about mental health in the workplace. Add your voice to my voice and let’s propel the discussion forward. After reading this, what are your thoughts? Is your workplace innovating or lagging? How do we make workplace mental health training a business priority?

The world needs your ideas, your energy and your commitment to mental health. I look forward to your responses.