May is Mental Health Awareness Month

The month of May has always been my favorite month of the year. I was born and raised in Speedway, Indiana, and if you don't know about this small town, it is famous for the Indianapolis 500. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the lifeblood of the town and community and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

The month also brings some of my greatest heartaches. I lost a dear friend, in 2013, on race day. We attended the race together in 2012 as this was a “bucket list” event for him. I was so happy to be able to share that experience with him and we always reminisced about that time. Because of a family event, I was not at the race on the day of his death. When I attended the race, last year, the first time back since his death, it was a very bittersweet moment for me. Hearing “Taps” and “The National Anthem” was, and will never be the same, for me.

May is mental health awareness month and I wrote about this last year. According to the National Institute of Mental, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. As HR professionals, we must do more to highlight all the options available to our employees in times of need. One of the most important benefit options we may offer is the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP). So many times, this benefit is overlooked. It's typically stuffed in the back of the orientation packet or presented at one of the many glossy brochures highlighting other perks. Many managers don't know where to turn to provide support for their employees. Make sure your employees and leaders know where to access this information.

If you see some changes in behaviors or know there will be some stressful times in the cycle of your business, be proactive with the resources available to you. Make sure your EAP is displayed prominently throughout the workplace so people know there is support. Google is not the diagnosis tool and your PHR is not your PhD in Psychology. Whatever you do, do not avert your eyes. Show compassion and always err on the side of caution.

As I have said many times before, HR people, please take care of yourself. Every day, we hear stories and deal with the struggles of our employees. This takes a toll. Don't assume that just because you're an HR person, you are immune to all of the problems. Use the EAP and be familiar with it. I’m still a heavy user of all of the benefits my EAP offers. 

The month of May is coming to a close and there will be other initiatives that will demand our attention. This does not mean we need to ignore the importance of mental health and awareness. There are too many resources available for us to just move on and assume our employees know what to do and where to go. And while May will always be my favorite month of the year, there’s not a month, or day, that goes by that I’m not thinking of my friend and his family.




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