Walking the walk, as in effecting meaningful change
I am a neurodiversity and mental health advocate. Supporting and safeguarding the mental health of neurodivergent and disabled people is a significant part of my work every single day.
So why would I despite a campaign that claims to support improving mental health, and battling stigma?
I will share with you some of the reasons you won’t see me posting any of these mental health campaigns, created by multi-billion dollar companies, under the guise of supporting mental health.
True mental health support must be genuine and meaningful
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with posting memes or infographics on social media encouraging people to talk about mental health. In fact, it’s a great start.
But it’s only that: a starting point.
My problem lies with the monetization of shameless virtue signalling. Large corporations collect donations from average citizens wanting to help, then make the donations in their company name, reaping the tax benefits of large charitable contributions.
True mental health support is not performative.
Posting a graphic on a company website does absolutely nothing to help employees, or anyone except those who have shares in that company. People share the graphic, which brings traffic to the company’s website or social media pages, which is a source of revenue.
I’m okay with that if it actually represents meaningful change and action within that corporation and beyond. If a company posts mental health awareness campaigns, what are they actually doing to improve mental health supports for their employees and their families?
True mental health supports are offered every day of the year, not just one. How does that organization promote a positive work culture, a healthy environment and working conditions for its employees, and a healthy work-life balance?
True mental health supports are not free massages or coffee and doughnuts (although those things are great too!), and true mental health supports are most definitely not email and social media campaigns that effect zero change.
How employers can truly help
Specific to my area of expertise, employers should offer neurodiversity training, provided by neurodivergent professionals, to their staff.
Companies should provide genuine, meaningful mental health supports, such as significant insurance coverage for mental health services.
Role-model and follow appropriate work-life boundaries, including never emailing your employees outside of their working hours.
Promote a positive work culture and a healthy environment and working conditions for employees. This means actually listening to people when they bring up concerns, acting on them in a timely manner, and then following up to ensure any problem areas have improved.
If you have a bad manager, deal with them ASAP. Don’t allow them to mistreat your employees or create a toxic work atmosphere. This is the quickest way to burning out, and losing, your best workers.
Have a reasonable policy when it comes to staff taking mental health days and sick days. By reasonable, I mean believe your staff when they call in and need a day off, and don’t make them jump through hoops when they do.
Provide reasonable and appropriate accommodations for staff, regardless of formal diagnosis or medical paperwork. Not everyone has the resources (especially financial) to get this paperwork together, that certainly doesn’t mean their needs are not legitimate.
Be flexible with your staff and treat them like adults. If they’re qualified enough to hire, then they’re qualified enough to trust and not micro-manage.
We must walk the walk, not just talk.
Today and every day let’s walk, not talk.
© Jillian Enright, Neurodiversity MB