Led by an A-list of C-suite executives, a new nonprofit is developing a playbook to guide companies in supporting employee mental health, plus a free online pay desk for anyone seeking help.
Why it matters: Knowing that burn from pandemic there is even reached the corner officeProject Healthy Minds is trying to reduce the stigma of mental illness by getting CEOs to talk about their struggles — and enact meaningful policies.
News direction: Healthy Minds Project. is building what it calls “the first direct-to-consumer digital mental health marketplace” — a one-stop shop for FINDING a crisis hotline, a psychiatrist, a substance abuse treatment program, or other relevant help.
- “We want to build an Expedia.com for mental health services,” says Phillip Schermer, founder and CEO of Project Healthy Minds, who previously helped shape the mental health strategy at BlackRock.
- A second mission is to partner with business leaders, celebrities and public officials who will speak out about the importance of mental health – perhaps their own.
- A third is creating national standards to guide companies’ mental health efforts—an issue of equal importance to millennia AND General Mr.
“In a knowledge economy, we need workers who are mentally strong and resilient,” says Schermer.
Who’s on board: Supporters of Project Healthy Minds include Bill Kolb, chairman and former CEO of McCann Worldgroup; Jeff Raider, co-founder of Warby Parker and Harry’s; Jacqui Canney, Chief People Officer at ServiceNow; and Brian Offutt, chief innovation and workforce operations officer at Weber Shandwick.
What they say: During the pandemic, “you had employees absolutely on edge,” Kolb said, adding that several McCann employees had recently died by suicide.
- Deeply shaken by those deaths, Kolb personally called the employee assistance program (EAP) hotline to test his company’s safeguards — and was put on hold for 12 minutes.
- When a man picked it up, “the first thing I had to do was not talk about the fact that I was going to kill myself, but tell him my employee identification number,” Kolb recalled.
- After that, “we started doing things really, really quickly” to help, like offering the Headspace app and Wellness Wednesdays, where guest speakers talk about mental health hygiene.
- The company also began training all workers to be “mental health advocates” and to be able to recognize emotional distress in coworkers and others.
“No matter how much brain power, time or effort you wear this, there’s no silver bullet — no quick fix,” Kolb tells Axios. “It’s a variety of things that you have to do over and over again and not take your foot off the gas.”
Where does it stand: McCann Worldgroup hired Project Healthy Minds to build a mental health training program for its executive board and senior executives.
- Kolb “felt it was important for leaders to be trained on these topics,” Schermer said, noting that the curriculum was built in collaboration with the National Network of Depression Centers.
By the numbers: A Healthy Mind Project survey found a disconnect between the expectations of millennial and Gen Z workers and what they are getting.
- 2 out of 3 consider their mental health when choosing an employer.
- Only half say their employer is supportive of their mental health.
- 77% say they would quit a job if it damaged their mental health.
What to expect next: Project Healthy Minds plans to compile a robust library of research on best practices in mental health programs, plus develop metrics against which companies can be measured.
- There is a need for “standardized metrics” that prospective employees can look at, Schermer said.
- Investors who evaluate companies on the criteria of “ESG” – environmental, social and governance practices – can use a firm’s mental health policies as a way to increase its “social” performance.
Ultimately: “We’re at the end of the first leg of a long game of rethinking what it means for companies to support employee mental health,” says Schermer.