Model workplace mental health programs
DuPont, Merck, Duke & a family business
One of the best ways to get started with a workplace mental health initiative is to learn about what other employers have done, especially those of a similar size and/or nature. Below are summaries gleaned from interviews conducted as part of a larger research project focused on workplace mental health initiatives:
Bike and Roll DC
A small, independent business, Bike and Roll DC offers professionally guided bike and Segway sightseeing tours in the nation’s capital, in addition to bike rentals. Run jointly by a husband and wife and one of their sisters, the business’s family nature is the force behind its implementation of a robust mental health initiative for a small business.
Following the suicide of the couple’s teenage son, the family decided to use the tragedy to educate about and decrease stigma surrounding mental health conditions. The goal is to create an open environment, one in which employees feel comfortable talking about and tending to their mental health needs. This begins during onboarding, a frequent process given the seasonal nature of the business; at peak times of the year, the organization’s staff grows to as many as 100 people. Also, “mental health days” are granted without question.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
Leadership at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is acutely aware of the stress that working at the facility can place on employees, who care for and interact with children experiencing significant illness and trauma and their families on a daily basis. The hospital has committed to ensuring the compassion it provides its patients is extended to its staff as well, with a special emphasis on their mental health needs.
The hospital developed a mobile cart, dubbed “Code Lavender,” which includes a variety of stress reduction resources, such as scented lavender, art supplies, books, water, and meditation and massage guides. For example, on a day when employees may be facing a particularly intense situation, a department might declare “Code Lavender at 2:00 p.m.” in order to bring employees together for reflection, sharing and relaxation.
The “Healthy Duke” initiative integrates five core areas to communicate a commitment to wellness among not only faculty and staff but also students. These include: 1) food and nutrition; 2) mental and emotional wellbeing; 3) physical activity and movement; 4) fulfillment and purpose; and 5) environment and culture.
DuPont has a number of internal initiatives focused on mental health and employee wellbeing, with strong support from top leadership.
Perhaps most notably, DuPont’s global EAP team created and implemented an internal anti-stigma campaign, called “ICU” (“I See You”), the centerpiece of which is an animated video about how to recognize signs of emotional distress in colleagues and encourage them to seek help. Based on its success, DuPont decided to make the ICU Program available to all employers, free of charge, through a partnership with the Center for Workplace Mental Health.
Pharmaceutical company Janssen, whose parent company is Johnson and Johnson, has established a company-wide vision that mental illness be “well understood and treated early and mostly prevented by 2030.”
The company is known to be the first to establish an employee resource group (ERG) specifically for employees who have or care for someone with a mental health condition. This ERG spearheads a number of events. During these events, senior executives speak on video about how mental health should be treated in the same way as physical health. In addition, the company is developing a mental health training for employees, based on the fact that the underlying issue in many performance problems is stress and other mental health concerns. This training will help the company’s supervisors understand and identify when this may be the case.
To assist in fostering a mental health-friendly work culture, global pharmaceutical company Lundbeck (5,000 employees) developed a campaign called “Right Direction,” which the company made available to all employers, free of charge, through a partnership with the Center for Workplace Mental Health. This campaign educates that depression is a serious condition that impacts all aspects of a person’s life, including work, and provides employers with turnkey, customizable resources and materials to assist in addressing it in the workplace setting. Return to top of page.
In 2014, Merck, a global health care company headquartered in Kenilworth, NJ with more than 69,000 employees worldwide, implemented an internal disability awareness campaign, titled “I Am Merck, Count Me In.” The purpose of the effort was to encourage more openness about disability across the company and educate employees about why they were invited to self-identify as having a disability and the benefits of doing so if appropriate.
The company also used this opportunity to educate about “hidden disabilities,” among them mental health conditions, which company representatives said were increasingly “cropping up” as an issue of concern for employees. Through this campaign, Merck discerned that employees indicated a reluctance to self-identify or disclose having a mental health condition for fear of stigma. To counter this, the company decided to implement a number of internal initiatives focused on mental health.
To start, it gathered internal divisions and created a series of events rolled out via a global webcast. Following this webcast, the company planned to offer two-hour mental health workshops on identifying mental health issues, in order to train and create a cadre of “mental health ambassadors.” It also planned to roll out a series of “Resources for Living” on topics such as supporting family members with mental health conditions, fighting stigma, emotional intelligence and resilience. Return to top of page.
Mayo Clinic/Dan Abraham Health Living Center
The center’s mission is to improve the health, both physical and mental, of Mayo Clinic employees, retirees, volunteers and their spouses.
A few years ago the center established an Employee Wellbeing Team and rolled out four components to assist in promoting wellness: 1) a wellbeing website available to all employees; 2) “well-champions,” who serve as ambassadors to promoting a healthy lifestyle and work-life balance; 3) workforce learning, encompassing courses on mental health topics; and 4) enterprise challenges, which are designed to keep employees engaged, mindful and present.