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Fostering a Culture of Mental Wellness: Promoting Awareness and Support at Work

how to foster a culture of mental wellness at work

In 2021, Simone Biles, an American artistic gymnast widely regarded as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, made headlines when she withdrew from several events at the Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health. Her decision sparked important conversations about the pressures faced by athletes and the importance of prioritizing mental well-being. Biles received widespread support for her courage and honesty, as she openly advocated for mental health awareness. 


It is not only Biles who has openly shared their struggles with mental health. The most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, has spoken publicly about his struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, particularly after retiring from swimming. He has become an advocate for mental health awareness and has worked to reduce stigma around seeking help. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, an actor and former professional wrestler, has also been open about his battle with depression, particularly during his teenage years. He has spoken about how exercise and therapy helped him cope with his mental health challenges. 


The issue of mental health extends far beyond a select few individuals. According to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.go, 42 percent of people reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression in February 2021. Mental health problems and illnesses contribute to about 30 percent of disability claims, both short- and long-term, in Canada. The annual cost to the Canadian economy from these issues exceeds $50 billion. 


mental health awareness and support at workplace

On any given day, we face various challenges that can trigger significant stress and sometimes even tragic setbacks, such as job stress, financial struggles, relationship strains, life changes, and physical illness, among others. While there has been significant progress in recognizing and promoting mental health awareness, discussing our emotions can still carry a sense of taboo. This societal stigma often forces individuals experiencing conditions like depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder to suffer in silence, potentially depriving them of the support they need most. 

This article does not aim to offer medical assistance to individuals facing mental health challenges. We acknowledge that mental health is a significant condition that should be addressed by medical professionals. Rather, the purpose here is to discuss how leaders can advocate for mental health awareness and cultivate a supportive environment for mental well-being within their organizations. 

create support organizational culture for mental health

Cultivate a Supportive Organizational Culture 

Several pieces of research have proved a close correlation between organizational culture and employees' negative emotional levels. An article published in Research in Organizational Behavior has found four noteworthy elements that cause anxiety among employees: 


  • When the organizational culture is highly result-oriented in which employees must strive for challenging goals with specific targets under time pressure 

  • When the organizational culture is weak so that employees do not internalize norms and they engage in deviant behaviours 

  • When there is a lack of consensus about norms that creates conflict between factions within an organization 

  • When there is a mismatch between employees’ values and organizational norms and values 


We spend substantial time at work. If the organizational culture is toxic or not clearly stated and demonstrated, it can cause serious anxiety that could negatively influence our overall health and well-being. 


Creating a supportive, growth-oriented workplace culture is essential for fostering a healthy work environment where employees feel valued and respected. It's crucial to communicate and demonstrate this culture consistently across all departments in the organization. 


how to support employees' mental health at work

Implement Well-being Initiatives 

Prevention is always better than cure. When leaders take proactive measures to minimize negative stressors and promote mental health, the company will yield stronger results in the long term. 


For instance, companies can offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) that provide confidential counseling and support services to employees facing mental health challenges. Leaders can ensure accessibility to mental health resources by providing information about local services, offering subsidies for therapy or counseling, or partnering with mental health organizations for support and resources. Furthermore, leveraging technology by offering mental health apps or online support groups can also be beneficial for employees' well-being. 


The significance of education cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to mental health in the workplace. Companies can offer workshops, seminars, or online courses covering topics such as stress management, resilience building, and recognizing signs of mental illness. By equipping employees with the necessary knowledge and skills, companies empower them to take proactive measures to support their mental well-being. 

how to talk to yourself for your mental health

Bonus: Evaluate How You Talk to Yourself 

 It is the most efficient when organizational support for employees' mental health is combined with individual awareness and effort. Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in New York City, suggests asking three questions regularly to boost your daily mood and as well as overall mental well-being. 

  1. "How am I talking to myself?": Let your inner monologue mimic the comforting words of a trusted friend or your most supportive buddy. When that inner voice leans towards sounding harsh or demanding, deliberately switch gears to a kinder, more compassionate tone. 

  2. "What small adjustments can I make?": In moments of hardship, it's easy to feel like there's no way out. But when you start concentrating on making small, steady adjustments, you'll realize that there's always a chance to make things better. 

  3. "Does this matter to me?": A scientifically proven key to happiness is directing your attention towards activities and goals that resonate with your core values. Once you pinpoint what truly matters to you, you gain the power to decide where to invest your energy and what to let go of. '' 

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