- Haley Urbanik
hope@work Series with Beverly King
Updated: Sep 11, 2020
Beverly King from Graebel Companies, Inc.
Mental health at work is a global conversation. That is why hope@work bloggers Deb and Haley Urbanik chose to sit down with Beverly King of Graebel Companies, Inc., a leading provider of talent and workplace mobility solutions for large global organizations from the financial, technology and business services industries. Beverly has spent much of her distinguished career working with employees globally and especially in the EMEA regions. She believes that creating hope at work around mental well-being happens when work cultures have three fundamentals in place:
1. Leaders with a strong understanding of mental health challenges
2. Employees using their own voice to bring change
3. A willingness of all to take ownership and extend empathy to others
Beverly believes that “All managers should understand the types of pressures people are under. Twenty to thirty years ago much less was known about mental health, it wasn’t talked about at all. Today we have social media creating a magnifying effect on it, which is bringing it into all of our experiences.” This movement from a hidden conversation to one that has become more present in the workplace has left many leaders with a gap of knowledge that needs to be addressed. King states, “Training managers so they understand some of the signs, challenges and issues that people may be experiencing is critical. They need to understand that different people at different life points will be going through very different things. It is not enough to say we’ve got a health plan and we’ve got an EAP…it’s about being accepted, about knowing that a manager is not going to judge you and that you do have that cushion of understanding.” Beverly believes that filling in the knowledge gap with leaders around what mental illness is, how it can present itself at work, what to do if the conversation arises, and how to best share your organization’s resources are critical first steps in the journey to a mentally healthy workplace. Employees agree, the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recent report, “Mental Health, a Workforce Crisis”, shares that when asked what actions employees would like to see employers take to support mental health, 40% said train managers and supervisors to identify emotional distress among employees (p70). Once this foundation is set, the next steps may begin: modeling acceptance by adding leader and employee voices to the conversation.
Using Your Own Voice
Beverly believes in the importance of using one’s voice to create change; “I love when leaders are sharing their story. It is about transparency and being true to yourself. I went to a great talk for International Women’s Day earlier this year, where speaker and life coach, Harriet Waley-Cohen, talked about how she had a bumpy ride all through life and that we should all understand that no-one is perfect. We all have our own particular bumpy rides and it is really about how we deal with it. She said to be proud of the fact that you can be resilient and encourage others to understand that they can be resilient too… maybe they just haven’t realized it yet.” One of the best ways to start a journey toward healing is to recognize that you are not alone. This often happens when you see yourself in someone else’s story.
King is spot on with these perceptions. The aforementioned AHA study also showed that 27% of employees report that they would like to have senior leaders talk about emotional well-being in communication to employees (p70). This same report shares how industry leaders, like Bank of America, are creating a safe culture for people to discuss mental health challenges by having leaders participating in “Courageous Conversations” where they share their own stories and have discussions that provide acceptance and resources to employees.
Take Ownership & Extend Empathy
Beverly says, “Everyone at some point in their life is going to go through some kind of a personal mental health crisis.” The American Heart Association study shows that three out of four US employees reported struggling with issues related to their mental health. The World Health Organization published a consensus paper titled “The EU Compass for Action on Mental Health and Well-Being” that reports, “approximately 38.2% of the EU
population suffers from a mental disorder each year. The most frequent disorders are anxiety disorders (14%), insomnia (7%), major depression (6.9%), somatoform (6.3%), alcohol and drug dependence (>4%), ADHD (5%) in the young, and dementia (1–30%, depending on age). Depression was found to be the most disabling condition.” In short, mental health challenges touch all of our lives and change will happen only when people step off of the sidelines and begin to play a role in creating a different experience with those who are suffering. Owning our own stories and extending empathy to others is where it starts. King says, “It’s about having a manager who is willing to stop what they are doing and say, hey are you ok?” She also shares, “I’m the first one to say I’m having a bad day; I believe we have to teach people it is OK to share to the right level. Not everyone wants to talk, but for the ones who do, you can show empathy and help them to find the right onward support, whether it is a company resource or benefit, a written guidance document or simply talking to someone who can help further or lend a friendly ear.”
The Oxford Dictionary defines stigma as, a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. The National Alliance on Mental Illness takes that definition one step further in their outstanding #curestigma campaign, comparing stigma to a virus that can easily be spread through people and the internet, but one that can also be cured; “Stigma is 100% curable. Compassion, empathy and understanding are the antidote.”