SMP offered Mental Health First Aid at Work (MHFA) training on February 13, and the timing was fortuitous. The workshop built a foundation for ongoing, critical mental health conversations in response to COVID-19. Perhaps more so than ever, it is imperative to communicate clearly about the virus, associated stress and fear, the importance of self-care and knowing when to seek professional support.
The greatest benefit of MHFA at Work is how effectively this workshop destigmatizes mental illness and substance use disorders through candid dialogue.
The icebreaker at the start of the session was telling. Every attendee raised a hand when asked if we knew someone in our personal or professional lives who experienced mental illness or struggled with substance abuse. With that commonality established and under the guidance of our facilitator, we spoke openly about mental illness, how to help others and how to advocate for ourselves.
As Wellness Director, it is my responsibility to encourage open mental health conversations when providing health coaching, during lunch-and-learn workshops and through articles in our company newsletter. Our wellness strategy also integrates mental health into various health-enhancement programs, such as:
Though well received by employees, none of these offerings have been as immersive as MHFA.
March 13 was our last day in the office for the foreseeable future because of COVID-19. Thankfully, SMP has been able to maintain remote operations. Video capability and various collaboration tools enable the wellness program to continue offering comprehensive programs and services while adapting to this unusual situation. Virtual guided imagery relaxation, group stretching, exercise classes and healthy cooking activities are offered regularly. Chat rooms such as the COVID-19 Coping Company and the seasonally appropriate Garden Care Club aim to keep employees connected and share valuable resources.
Health programs and fitness challenges designed for the present circumstances continue as well. Recent offerings include a book club, I-Spy Spring Outside for families and kid-at-heart employees, and Boogie to the Beach, a virtual team race to summer vacation. The intent of these programs varies. Whether educational, inspirational, or simply for fun, they bring employees together to enhance well-being.
At SMP, we refer to ourselves as family. As employees adjust to being isolated from their extended families, the SMP family must adapt as well. While we face continued uncertainty posed by COVID-19, the wellness program must be innovative and should pull from the valuable experience of MHFA to best serve and support employees.