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May 9, 2022 Haeli Harris

Why The History of Mental Health Awareness Month Matters For Your Business

Plus ways for companies to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month

The history of Mental Health Awareness Month serves as a reminder to make mental health a top priority. Read on to learn about the history of Mental Health Awareness Month, plus some ways to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month with your team.

A Brief History of Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month’s history started in 1949 with Mental Health America, a nonprofit that promotes mental health awareness and helps people get mental health support. They have designated May as Mental Health Awareness Month.

Each year, MHA chooses a theme for Mental Health Awareness Month. In 2022, the theme is “Back to Basics”.

MHA’s founder, Clifford Whittingham Beers, helped kick-start the modern concept of mental health. He aimed to help people gain access to better mental health care.

Why Observe Mental Health Awareness Month at Work?

We’ve come a long way since the 1940s, but we still have a ways to go when it comes to providing access to mental health care and breaking down stigmas around mental health. That’s where businesses like yours come in.

45% of people with a mental illness still don’t seek professional support. There are many reasons for this, from stigma to lack of access to care, to the costs of care, and lack of counselor availability.

Plus, it’s simply difficult to reach out for help, especially when you’re struggling mentally.

Reflecting on the history of Mental Health Awareness Month and your own mental health experiences can help businesses refocus on supporting employees in this often neglected area.

For more information on starting your company’s mental health journey, check out these blog posts:

Ideas to Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month at Work

I recommend that your Mental Health Awareness Month efforts center on three things:

  1. Mental health awareness
  2. Mental health education
  3. Reducing the stigma around mental health

Here are three ways your company can touch on these three aspects of Mental Health Month.

1. Sharing the History of Mental Health Awareness Month with Your TeamWhy The History of Mental Health Awareness Month Matters For You Business - three people chatting at the end of long table at work

You can do this via email, by holding a lunch and learn (more on that in #2), or sharing an announcement during your next team meeting. If you can have the CEO or another company leader share the update, that will help.

In this same announcement, share some stress management tips with your team.

Here is an example announcement you can send out:

“May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we want to encourage everyone to take care of themselves this month, even if that means stepping away from work for a bit to take a walk, talk to a therapist, or practice other kinds of self-care. Mental Health Awareness Month’s history started in 1949 with Mental Health America, a nonprofit that promotes mental health awareness and helps people get mental health support. You can check out their website for resources on self-care and mental health support. You can also contact HR to learn more about our mental health benefits.”

2. Holding a Lunch and Learn on Mental Health

Wellness lunch and learns are an excellent way to bring your company together to talk about this important topic.

Here is an example agenda for your virtual or in-person workshop:

  1. Kick it off with a get-to-know-you-question. Ask questions like: How do you manage your stress positively? What is your favorite thing to do for self-care?
  2. Have a company leader share their mental health story. It doesn’t need to be super in-depth or cover your entire mental health story. Even just an example of a struggle you had this past week works. The idea is to start opening the door to vulnerability and showing employees that it is okay to talk about mental health at work. This article includes some real mental health stories from our team members to help inspire you to share yours.
  3. Discuss the history of Mental Health Awareness Month and what your team is doing to support mental health at work.
  4. Share some stress management tips with your team. Mindfulness, exercise, healthy eating, sleep hygiene, spending time outside, and doing things you love are all great examples.
  5. Close it out with a guided meditation. You can find tons online, or bring in a counselor to lead the meditation for your team.

3. Providing a Mental Health Benefit to Your Team

If you don’t already, now is a great time to start! Your Guide to the EAP Implementation and Search Process will help your team find and decide on a mental health program for your team.

There are countless other ways to prioritize mental health in your workplace. For more inspiration, check out: 14 Mental Health Awareness Month Activities for Employees

Learn About the Power of Self-Care

Download the Mental Health Tool Kit to learn about mental health in the workplace – what it is, why it matters, and how you can start supporting employee mental health!

Haeli Harris

Haeli Harris, LMFT is the Lead Counselor at Nivati. She has been practicing as a Marriage and Family Therapist since 2014. Haeli has experience working as a therapist in private practice settings, residential facilities, outpatient treatment care, schools, and telehealth.

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, UT & HI
Registered Yoga Teacher 200
Trauma Conscious Yoga (2021)
Clinical Member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

Education
Bachelor's of Science Degree in Human Development and Family Studies, University of Utah
Master's of Arts Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, Northcentral University

MENTAL HEALTH FOR THE WHOLE EMPLOYEE