Prioritizing Mental Health in Employee Wellness

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While physical wellness is an important component of any wellness plan, mental wellness is equally important when it comes to having happy and healthy employees. “Addressing mental health in the workplace is a necessity for any outcomes we’re hoping to achieve,” said Dr. Shelly Farnan of Burrell Behavioral Health. However according to Farnan many employee wellness programs tend to focus primarily on physical wellness.

In response to COVID-19 and the stresses it placed on men- tal health service providers, Burrell Behavioral Health created a mental health wellness program for its employees that has expanded into programs for the community. “We recognized our employees have a lot going on in their lives, even before COVID but especially during,” said Katelyn Lenhart, Vice President of Human Resources with Burrell Behavioral Health. “We’re asking a lot more of our providers. In addition to dealing with the pandemic, our employees have a lot on their plates. We’re encouraging those providers to take care of themselves too.”

“It was a dream prior to COVID but COVID gave us the opportunity to launch the program,” said Dr. Farnan. The program began by offering a 30-minute daily private Zoom meeting for Burrell employees. Then following that meeting, a 30-minute public meeting was held via Facebook livestream.

“We tried to make this as accessible as possible,” said Dr. Farnan. After the initial Facebook Live events, Dr. Farnan and colleagues began getting requests to conduct workshops at local entities including the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Springfield. These experiences are now available to any organization.

“As a behavioral health organization, we house all this scientific information about the way our brains operate and the way our
emotional health happens,” said Dr. Farnan. “As a general soci- ety we don’t have that luxury.” To provide a better foundation for people to understand the importance of mental health in the workplace, a Be Well experience usually starts with some foundational elements of brain science. “We’ve seen firsthand how little most of us know about how to take care of our emotional health and well-being and through this program we’re able to teach through experience and help people feel better as a result.”

The Be Well team at Burrell partnered with the Springfield Cardinals by integrating sports into the program and hosting the Be Well Clubhouse. One participant followed up to thank the Burrell team for helping him recognize why he was feeling physically and mentally exhausted. “That one will always stick with me,” said Dr. Farnan. “Our communities, our state, our nation, our world deserve to understand brain health, and emotional health and well-being.”

“What started with concern for our employees led to really trying to make these concepts readily available to anyone,” said Lenhart. “We want everyone to think about how they are practicing self-care every day. The things that I’ve learned as an employee have helped me tune in better to my life and the needs of others.”

“The philosophy behind Be Well is that we aren’t waiting for folks to ask for help,” said Farnan. “We’re saying to our employees and the community as a whole, ‘we’ll be here every single day and we hope that you’ll join us. All are welcome. Come as you are.’”

Learn how you can bring the Be Well Community to your organization by visiting bewellcommunity.org.