The growing Importance of Acknowledging Mental Health in Organizations — Karen Walker Johnson

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A change catalyst and innovative problem solver, Karen Walker Johnson is a compassionate healthcare executive. Her background includes leadership roles in hospital administration, health plan operations, and Medicare, Medicaid, and those requiring long-term care. Karen is an advocate for identifying and acknowledging the growing need for behavioral and mental health in organizations, specially amidst COVID-19.

We are in discussion with Karen about mental health in organizations and the toll coronavirus has had on different demographics.

Karen, studies show that the anxiety and uncertainty brought on by COVID-19 has caused corporate employees to slide down the mental health continuum. If left untreated, this may lead them on the pathway to burnout and depression. Lots of people still refuse to acknowledge the problem. In your opinion, how real is this issue and what is the best way to tackle this?

“The toll that COVID 19 has taken on the mental and emotional health of our workforce is immeasurable. We see it in lack of productivity, increased need for the use of sick time, employee’s inability to focus and those who simply tell us they aren’t doing well. This stress is caused by a number of reasons — worry about the new challenges faced by their children in schools, isolation, concern about the future, and uncertainty about job retention.

“In terms of how to help your employees tackle these very real concerns, if your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), you must promote it. Make it easy for employees to access it. Bring the services to your teams (webinars, zoom sessions etc.). Identify mental health professionals either within or external to your organization, that can work to develop and augment existing programs. Encourage employees to utilize their Paid Time Off (vacation time) to recharge. Frequent communication with employees, even if they are working remotely due to the pandemic. Encourage them to exercise in the outdoors, promote stress-relieving activities like yoga and so on. Managers should check in with their teams, take pulse surveys to see what the most pressing concerns are, and attempt to address those that the company is able to.”

Thank you for sharing, Karen.

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