What is Mental Health Awareness Month And Why has it Become so Popular in the US?

Why Did American Employers Mark May As The Mental Health Awareness Month?

This year, the month of May was celebrated as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States and Canada. Across the US and Canada, employers and employees alike took part in a month long activity binge, focusing on how the American and Canadian workplaces ought to be places where employees feel engaged and more importantly, mentally fit to do the work that has been assigned to them.

While the West and the US in particular has long been occupied with the “conversations” on mental health issues at the workplace, this was the first time that an entire month was dedicated and designated as Mental Health Awareness Month.

The reason for this urgency and importance accorded to Mental Health Awareness is that the post Pandemic workforce worldwide and especially in the US and Canada have been in the throes of an acute Mental Health crisis, leading to an epidemic of stress and burnout, more among the Millennials and the Gen Zers, or those under 40, as they struggled to cope with the demands that the pandemic imposed on their careers and personal lives affecting their wellbeing.

What are the Consequences of the Crisis of Mental Health Issues at the Workplace?

As mentioned earlier, there is an increasing realization among corporates in the West that Mental Health of their employees is something that needs to be taken seriously. There are many reasons for this as we shall discuss subsequently.

Right from productivity losses from disengaged and disconnected employees, to trends such as The Great Resignation, where Millennials and Gen Zers quit their jobs en masse, to the more serious consequence of suicides and other forms of self harm among American and Canadian professionals, Mental Health at the workplace affects us all in direct and indirect ways. For instance, it is widely reported how celebrity sportspersons such as Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, have been struggling lately on account of their mental health issues.

In addition, there have been instances of outright breakdowns and meltdowns in the workplaces by those employees, who reached the tipping point where they could not continue with their jobs. So, there are any numbers of consequences of not taking the emotional and psychological wellbeing of the workforce, making this issue important.

How can Employers Address Mental Health Issues at the Workplace More Effectively?

While it is well and good that Mental Health issues at the workplace are being taken seriously, there remain gaps between intent and execution.

In other words, while well meaning corporates strive to address the epidemic of mental health issues among Americana and Canadian workforces, the on the ground realities leave much to de desired.

Mental Health

Right from the stigma and the taboo surrounding mental health issues to the sweeping under the carpet syndrome that is the reality among employers worldwide, more effort and action should be put into addressing mental health issues among the Millennials and the Gen Zers. This is where empathic and emotionally intelligent managers and coworkers can help their peers suffering from mental health issues. By talking to them, being empathic and managing their mood swings, managers can go a long way in reducing the impact of mental health issues at the workplace.

After all, the immediate bosses and the managers are the “first responders” meaning that they are the nearest and the most accessible people for employees affected by mental health issues and so, this is where corporates ought to focus their energies on.

Why Emotional Intelligence Offers Hope to Those Suffering From Mental Health Issues?

Much has been written and said about Mental Health Awareness in recent months. More so during the month of May, that was designated as Mental Health Awareness Month. Indeed, anyone who browses through social media and networking platforms such as LinkedIn would have noticed the plethora of posts addressing this burning issue. However, among all the reams of coverage on mental health, not much was said about how Emotional Intelligence can be an effective way of addressing this problem.

Indeed, older employees would recall how EQ or Emotional Quotient (a signifier of Emotional Intelligence) can be the most effective solution to the burgeoning mental health problems affecting younger workers. By making they manage their emotions and the emotions of others, by being emotionally engaged and by ensuring that their focus is not lost, the EQ framework is both ideal and practical in the ways and means that it can be used to address this issue.

There was a time in the not too distant past when Emotional Intelligence was “measured” using the EQ framework at the hiring stage and then at the appraisal stage to evaluate the employees.

Last Word: It is High Time Older Employees Stepped in to the Conversation

As has been pointed out multiple times earlier, the acuteness of mental health issues are being felt by those under 35/40 years of age and so, it is high time the older employees stepped into the conversation.

In the coverage on May being the Mental Health Awareness Month, I came across several posts and articles on how The Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and Moonlighting are all related to the Millennial and Gen Zers. In such a case, the Boomers and the Gen Xers among the American and Canadian workforces have a responsibility to mentor and coach younger employees to help them deal with their angst.

Indeed, in our experience, we have found that by talking to more senior and experienced managers and executives, we were able to manage our emotions and mood swings better. In addition, we also found that the “informal” mentoring that happens in cross functional spheres is also effective.

In other words, not only the immediate bosses, but also across the horizontal and vertical domains can help here. This is one of the talking points during the Mental Health Awareness Month celebrated in May.

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