Guides & Resources

Mental Health Awareness Month

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month! To some, this may just be another one of those “national holidays” categorized with the same days that honor this country’s favorite foods. For others, it may feel more like a call to action. A time of reflection and overwhelming urge to make a change because maybe we have been there before or know someone who has. And for those of us who live and breathe impact on a daily basis, the latter may be all too familiar.  

We Need to Talk More About Mental Health at Work, published by the Harvard Business Review, recently caught my eye and reminded me that the impact sector has much room to grow in this area. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, despite anxiety disorders being treatable, only 36.9% of people with anxiety disorders receive the treatment they need. Women are twice as likely as men to be affected by Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD. In a work force and donor base that remains comprised of mostly women, this matters—if you want to keep them.

Understanding mental health should be a priority to everyone in your organization. But it shouldn’t stop there. Understanding alone is not enough. The days of checking your feelings at the door and keeping home and work lives separate are over. According to the author of the HBR article above, “when we acknowledge our mental health, we get to know ourselves better, and are more authentic people, employees, and leaders. Research has found that feeling authentic and open at work leads to better performance, engagement, employee retention, and overall wellbeing.”

Organizations who encourage and provide space for A More Authentic and Integrated Life are likely to see the benefits. Practices such as providing flexibility for staff to work remotely, combining sick and vacation for a pool of leave, and having counseling and wellness options as part of the benefits package, are just some of the steps that organizations can take in this direction.

On the flip side, we as impact professionals need to get better at putting ourselves first. In a field of living and breathing for others, we are incredibly passionate and dedicated workers. But that does no good to our teams, leaders, and donors if we are burning ourselves out. Acknowledge your needs. Be honest with your friends, family, and teammates. Talk to your doctor and/or seek a counselor if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Mental Health Awareness Month provides space to break the stigma by encouraging a deeper understanding. It is a reminder that we need to stop and reflect, not just on mental health as it impacts others, but as it impacts ourselves, our organizations, and our communities.

Alyson Stoffer is the development officer for the Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities and president of the AFP Triangle Chapter. This article originally appeared in the Philanthropy Journal Weekly News and is reprinted here with permission.

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