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Talking About Mental Health at Work

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

Despite the importance of vulnerability at work to promote a trauma-informed environment, the stigma surrounding emotional vulnerability in the office is still running rampant.

Mental health has become an increasingly popular topic of conversation in mainstream media, especially among high-profile athletes like Simone Biles and entertainers like Ariana Grande. This shift towards mental health awareness hasn’t transitioned as quickly among business leaders—but it’s about time it did.

Our workforce is more stressed now than ever before, and that includes everyone involved, from business leaders to workers on the floor. With record-high rates of mental health conditions, businesses are slowly realizing that they can no longer push the idea that emotional vulnerability is inappropriate or weak.

A Mental Health Roundtable with Business Leaders

Trauma-informed leadership is increasingly important in the workplace, and several business leaders are already making waves.

In May 2022, Fast Company hosted a roundtable with mental health advocates and leaders, including CBS Sunday Morning anchor Jane Pauley, Trevor Project CEO Amit Paley, Bonobos co-founder Andy Dunn, entrepreneur Paul English, and singer-songwriter Alicia Keys.

At the roundtable, topics such as depression, anxiety, grief, shame, bipolar disorder, imposter syndrome, vulnerability, honesty, and the unrelenting state of the world were discussed openly.

Amit Pauley recalled the first time he ever mentioned his mental health at work, and although he wasn’t doing great at the time, the experience was “empowering” and “liberating” for him.

Discussions like these set an example for everyone, including other business leaders, which is why they are an essential part of the trauma-informed process.

How Discussion Paves the Way for Change

In recent years, we’ve witnessed a paradigm shift in healthcare towards trauma-informed care, and that shift is now expanding past healthcare settings and into our everyday lives, especially at work.

Conversations between well-known leaders, such as the mental health roundtable, are a part of the reason why we’re experiencing this shift, but these meaningful conversations can make change even on a much smaller scale.

Talking to your coworkers or employees about their well-being in an honest way can make a difference by building trust and strengthening relationships. And it opens the door for more open and honest conversations, especially when it matters most, such as during conflict.

So, the next time someone asks, “How are you?” at work, consider taking down your walls and answering openly and honestly.

Mutual respect, understanding, and trust are foundational in trauma-informed leadership, and everyone can contribute to the continued shift towards trauma-informed workplaces—including you.

Learn More About Trauma-Informed Leadership

Talking about mental health at work is an essential component of trauma-informed leadership. In fact, having these conversations is the first step toward becoming trauma-informed. When we can shift our lens from a problem/behavior-based focus into a strength-based focus, the entire conversation changes.

If the idea of hosting open and honest conversations about mental health at work makes you feel excited about the shift towards trauma-informed workplaces, consider learning more about how you can apply a trauma-informed approach in your life or work with Chefalo Consulting.


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