by Kendall Shepherd
Mental health matters. Experts estimate that around 20% of the US population lives with a mental illness. Those are people we know, people we care about, and people we work with on a daily basis.
Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re putting a focus on mental health in a variety of ways. For us, this means more than just making a LinkedIn post or saying a few nice things on May 1st – this is a month-long recognition and year-round support!
This is what Mental Health Awareness Month means to Opal…
The Origins of Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental health visibility and understanding have made tremendous strides in our society today. Many conditions are portrayed with nuance in the media, going to a therapist is normalized and viewed as good, and the idea of a “mental health day” is celebrated. All of that is great!
However, that was not always the case. Mental health struggles were once stigmatized to the point that people wouldn’t talk publicly about them, and the field of therapy was regarded with suspicion. After all, the common slang term for a therapist then was a “headshrinker” or “shrink” – not a sign of acceptance by any means.
In 1949, Mental Health America (then called the National Association for Mental Health) cemented May as the month to spread mental health awareness to combat the rampant stigma. Their goal was the same as it is today: to bring awareness to a variety of mental illnesses, end the negative stigma around them, and to send the message that mental health is something that should matter to everyone.
In addition to awareness building, each year Mental Health America highlights a theme and supports it with a toolkit of resources. The 2023 theme focuses on how our surroundings impact our mental health – with the goal of inspiring individuals to both look around and within.
What Opal is Doing to Champion Mental Health Awareness Month
Creating a psychologically safe and personally supportive work environment is a year-round mission of the People Operations team at Opal. This May, however, we went above and beyond to recognize mental health with events, education, and more. Here’s what we did:
1) Hosted a L&L Titled: Calming an Anxious Mind: Working & Thriving with OCD
Mental health challenges can affect anyone – friends, family, coworkers. Highlighting that point, Opal’s Senior Content Marketer, Lee Dussinger, gave a Lunch and Learn session about his experience with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
During the presentation, he shared his early experiences with anxiety, receiving an OCD diagnosis, and the strategies he employs to thrive despite his mental illness. This session was about sharing his lived experience and connecting on how everyone can better handle the stress of daily life.
2) Donation to IOCDF (International OCD Foundation)
Since our Lunch & Learn put OCD on center stage, as a company, we felt compelled to give to an organization dedicated to OCD. For every Opalite who attended the Lunch & Learn, we made a donation to the International OCD Foundation. This organization is dedicated to providing resources, support, and even treatment to people who have OCD.
3) Monday Mindfulness Sessions
Every Monday morning in May, we hosted a 15-minute mindfulness session. We began with a brief and informal chat about being present in the moment, often focusing on a theme we shared ahead of time. Examples of the ideas we discussed included “Shaping Your Home Environment”, “Opening Your Mind to the Outdoors”, and “Look Around, Look Within”. We followed the conversation with 5 minutes of off-camera meditation to recalibrate for the day!
Why and How Opal Supports Our Employees’ Mental Health
Recent research has shown that nearly one-third of US employees feel their mental health is negatively affected by their job. This does not need to be the case – and this is something that we should acknowledge all the time – not just in May. So at Opal, we prioritize talking about, honoring, and initiating policies that support mental health for every Opalite.
The first – and major – reason that Opal’s leadership and People Operations team take action to encourage positive mental health is because it’s the right thing to do. We care. Full stop.
Of course, our employees are our greatest asset. As a company, we would not be able to achieve success or grow without them. Supporting the mental and physical health of our team enables everyone to be at their best – and to build the best Opal for our customers.
So how do we accomplish this?
1) 100% Covered Employee Health Insurance Plan – Our robust health plan covers various mental health and substance use services, including outpatient care, psychiatry, psychotherapy, and residential care.
2) True Unlimited Vacation Policy – Taking a mental health day – or taking a week away… Everyone must take a MINIMUM of 2 weeks time off every year (even though 3 weeks or more is encouraged) as a requirement.
3) Employee Assistance Plan – We offer an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) to support everyone with a variety of services, from counseling to financial and legal consultation.
4) First Fridays – Powering the whole company down on the first Friday of every month gives everyone permission to take care of themselves and to not think about work!
5) Flexible Work Arrangements – To support how everyone feels best at work, as a company, we are flexible with the way we work. This looks like freedom over your hours and a remote-first environment, with the option for coworking space!
6) Training on ADA Compliance – To make sure we’re providing accommodation to employees who disclose living with a mental health or substance use condition, the People Operations team goes through annual training.
Earning Recognition for Our Efforts
While we go to great lengths internally to ensure we’re supporting our team and meeting their needs, receiving external recognition is rewarding, too.
For the 2022-2023 year, Opal is a proud Silver recipient of Mental Health America’s Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health. This national employer certification program recognizes companies that show true commitment to employee mental health and well-being!