By Elena Brown

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and this year I find myself viewing this issue through an international lens. That’s because in March, I had the distinct honor of travelling to The Hague to represent the U.S. Department of Labor at a policy forum on mental health and work sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The event was a highlight of my career − and in some ways brought it full circle. While there, I recalled a formative experience from my early working years. While attending graduate school I worked part time as an administrative assistant for a large company. In my office there also was a high-level executive secretary who oozed competence and professionalism, and I appreciated her advice on many occasions.

But, over a period of time, her demeanor changed, and she was not her usual self. Then one day she just disappeared. I eventually found out why, when I was given the chore of writing her termination letter. She had experienced a “nervous breakdown,” I was told.

I wrote the letter, but it bothered me to do so. She was an upstanding employee with more than 10 years at the company. There was no effort to retain her; she was summarily dismissed.

That experience shaped my life going forward, propelling me to enter the employee assistance profession, which was just emerging at the time. Employee assistance professionals, by way of employee assistance programs, provide counseling and referrals to help employees address personal problems that might adversely impact their job performance.

Whether through an EAP or a less formal method, supporting the mental health needs of workers is good for employees, employers and society at large. That was the resounding message at the international forum − and an affirming one to those of us in the Office of Disability Employment Policy.

We in ODEP take an inclusive view to disability policy, one that considers the needs of...Click here to read the rest of the blog post.