The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Mental Health Month Focus: Resources

May is Mental Health Month, and we’re homing in on three facets of higher education that impact mental health: campus culture, resources, and work flexibility. Here, in Part II of the three-part series, we’ll look at some of the barriers that prevent employees from utilizing resources, and how some approaches from the corporate world can offer inspiration for higher ed.

Lack of awareness is often the first, and worst, barrier that prevents employees from making use of available resources. Offering robust mental health support means very little if employees don’t actually know what their options for care are. After all, how can someone utilize a resource they’re not aware of?

It’s also important to consider how these resources are accessed. Some employees may be facing challenges that significantly limit the time and energy they have to spend on seeking care and navigating complex processes. Institutions can help mitigate these barriers by offering digital or non-location-based resources and by ensuring that any steps needed to access care are as streamlined and clear as possible.

Further, it’s important to remember that resources are not one-size-fits-all. A resource that meets the needs of one employee may not be helpful for another employee, which warrants the need for a wide variety of resources. Some mental health resource options the corporate world has put in place can help spark inspiration for higher ed institutions. 

Corporate Examples

In 2013, Lundbeck and Takeda Pharmaceuticals partnered with the American Psychiatric Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health and Employers Health to create the Right Direction campaign and framework, an educational initiative designed to increase awareness of depression in the workplace and to support help-seeking behaviors in employees. Right Direction and its host of customizable materials and turn-key strategies have since been made available for use to all employers, free of charge. At Kent State University, Right Direction served as a strong starting point when developing their own campaign around mental health and employee well-being.

Since the start of social distancing, many private companies, such as Starbucks and Zoom, have augmented their health and wellness benefits by sponsoring employee access to apps such as Headspace, Calm, Lyra and Aaptiv. Apps are a convenient and familiar medium for most employees, and accessing care or support through an app can be a less intimidating option for those who are wary of or unable to seek more traditional forms of care.

Other companies, both large and small, have set aside time and space within the workday for employees to practice stress relief techniques and mindful habits like yoga, meditation and social connections with coworkers.

What Can HR Do?

The above are just a few of the many examples HR can take inspiration from when it comes to providing innovative benefits for employees. When thinking about your campus, consider the following questions:

  • Are there funds allotted in the budget for mental health support?
  • Are resources easy to access and easy to understand?
  • Is everyone aware of the resources offered?
  • Where in the workday can we find time for mental health and well-being activities?
  • Are there any apps, services or tools we can consider adding to our plans?
  • What other free or low-cost options can we explore to support mental health?

Of course, every institution is different. And while some may face more limiting factors than others, taking a creative approach to your institution’s current plans and practices can breathe new life into existing resources.

Missed Part I of the three-part series? Catch up here.

Related resources: 

CUPA-HR’s Mental Health Toolkit (a members-only resource) highlights key resources and example policies and programs specific to higher education.