Washington D.C. - On February 12, Openminded.org was honored to attend Driving Mental Health Culture Change: Corporate Leadership, Opportunity & Responsibility, hosted by Give an Hour and The Meadows Institute. The 15 attendees have collectively over 250+ years of experience managing the challenges of mental health from a variety of different perspectives, namely as business executives, researchers, consultants, psychologies, entrepreneurs, lobbyists, and social workers. Read more below about what was discussed:
Why now? - Mental health isn’t anything new. So why are businesses all of a sudden starting to take this seriously and enact policies around this issue. On one hand, companies are just now beginning to see the long term benefits; on another hand, the new generation in leadership appears to be thinking about the problem differently. Newer executives are challenging old views about the employee // employer relationship and are pushing for businesses to offer more than just salaries. Needless to say, it hasn't been easy getting to this point - but there was collective optimism that mental health issues with continue to gain momentum at the executive level.
Chicken or Egg problem - some of the attendees have struggled to see these initiatives take root in business, both from a top down and bottom up perspective. Despite using all of their political political capital to add mental health benefits, one executive struggled to muster enough support from other key members of the organization (HR, Finance, Divisional Leaders, etc.). Another attendee had seen younger members of the team launch initiatives to spread mental health awareness, but came short of making it part of the ordinary dialogue. The room agreed that businesses will struggle unless they both make this a multidisciplinary priority and explore more efficient “mechanism of delivering support”.
Delivery Mechanism - In hearing about these failed attempts to drive mental health culture change, we attempted to zero in further on the root cause. At the end of the day, the cost of implementation are unreasonably high, including financial resources, political capital, creating awareness, etc. This is fairly understandable when considering the complexity of the topic, but there are signs that innovative new tools and services are addressing these points of friction. Keep an eye on companies like Spring Health, Lyra Health, Modern Health, Ginger.io, Alma, Quartet Health, Vida health, 2Cups, 7Chairs, TalkSpace, Bravely and dozens of other that have received considerable funding to improve accessibility.
Measurement - real change is going to come when we are able to showcase the short and longer term benefits to employees and shareholders. One attendee mentioned that they have seen much fewer occurrences of HR issues bubbling up to their disciplinary committee after enacting mental health programs. Additionally, arguments have been made that mental health services will enable companies to hire and retain great talent and foster more productive workplaces. Stakeholders should make every effort to share these insights so that these programs can ultimately become table stakes at all businesses.
Today's businesses have an outsized role in the health and happiness of our communities. Their efforts will be felt by generations to come. It was great to find that a growing number of thoughtful and progressive businesses are recognizing that mental health awareness and treatment is good for their employees, and good business. We left the event with a new perspective on the potential role of companies in this complex paradigm and a new respect for their eagerness to change the narrative.