President's Perspective Blog

Mike’s Monday Message Takeover: Mental Health Awareness 2024

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Mental Health Awareness Month

Over the last couple of years, the conversation around mental health has become more open and public, but where the discussion is still falling short concerns the stigma faced by working professionals at all levels. This is why it has never been more important for nonprofit organizations to develop and implement employee mental health and wellness programs.

For everyday people, when we disclose a mental illness, we fear losing the three things that matter the most in our lives: family, friends, and our jobs. Disclosing a mental illness should not mean giving anything up or losing those who should be supporting you, but for many, that fear is real.

It is great that nonprofits are starting to promote mental health awareness days and list available resources for their employees — but we still have a long way to go before organizations become comfortable environments for employees and volunteers to disclose a mental illness without the fear of judgment or consequences.

What the nonprofit sector needs to recognize — and champion — is that mental health is just as important as physical health.

The landscape of our workforce has drastically changed over the past four years, and this has not happened without consequences for the workers themselves. Remote and hybrid work have separated us from community partners, donors, and professional colleagues — that separation has caused a great deal of emotional disconnectedness, loneliness, and isolation.

Although a flexible work schedule remains one of the most valued and requested items by our workforce, that flexibility needs to extend and allow for accommodations to support those suffering from grief and loss or a diagnosed mental illness. Accommodation could include; working nontraditional hours, compressed work weeks, a quieter workspace, and telecommuting — all of which can support an employee’s effort to seek treatment or adjust to medication.

The goal for any organization should be to promote the acceptance and inclusion of those dealing with a mental health issue by improving support systems, creating safe environments for discussion to take place, and offering education and training on mental health related topics.

Normalizing conversations about mental health is still one of the best ways to reduce stigma within the workplace. Creating a culture of empathy, psychological safety, and wellness involves consistency and effort, but most importantly it requires support from organizational leadership.

Leadership today is about taking care of the people responsible for the work, not just the work itself.

Every aspect of a nonprofit (employee retention, recruitment, staff morale, and the financial bottom line) has the potential to be impacted by mental health in some way. Study after study continues to show that mental illness causes more absenteeism and lost productivity than any other chronic health condition. And still, the most asked question I get from volunteer boards and leadership teams is — “when should we start?” — I am here to tell you that the research and your employees are saying — the time is now!

Now, more than ever, it is essential to instill the importance of nurturing an environment of openness at work regarding mental health to better support our employees. However, this requires employees to feel psychologically safe before discussing a challenge and issue that might cause others to view them in a different way.

Psychological safety in the workplace is crucial for promoting mental health among employees. When individuals feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to express their thoughts and emotions without fear of reprisal. This open communication fosters a supportive environment where employees can seek help when needed, reducing feelings of isolation and stress.

Talking about mental health today is not just a moment, talking about mental health today is a movement. This movement needs more advocates, activists, and champions — and while addressing mental health can be challenging, organizations and nonprofit leaders are in a powerful position to help change attitudes and offer a vital support system.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Please take this time to share resources and inspirational stories of “lived experience” and recovery — you never know who it will help.

To learn more about mental health in the workplace, join us for a complimentary session on mental health in the workplace, AFP Affinity Group Speaker Series: Addressing Mental Health and Ending Stigma in the Workplace: Taking the Next Step, Moving from Awareness to Action! The session will be hosted by AFP Global's Director of Leadership Development & Credentialing, Ian Adair on May 16 at 1:00 p.m. ET. This presentation will examine:

  • The impact of mental health on the workforce; How mental health impacts every aspect of a nonprofit;
  • How leaders can cultivate an environment of acceptance and inclusion to support employee wellness and mental health;
  • How to cultivate supportive environments for discussion, education, and disclosure of mental health challenges;
  • How organizations can utilize mental health awareness, wellness, and recognition programs to improve the overall employee experience.

Register now!

Author Information

Ian Adair, MS, CNP, ACNP

Director of Leadership Development and Credentialing
Ian Adair is the Director of Leadership Development and Credentialing at the Association of Fundraising Professionals global office. He is a speaker, author, and advocate concerning mental health awareness and addressing mental health in the...
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