Should Retailers Invest in Mental Health?

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By Published On: May 12, 20220 Comments

In honour of Mental Health Awareness month, Walmart announced it would be introducing a program to champion the spread of mental health awareness and teach them the skills needed to aid those in need. Should retailers embrace this concept across the board?

Walmart’s Mental Health First Aid training course runs for four hours, providing lessons for employees to identify, respond and understand the signs and symptoms of those who are struggling with mental health challenges.

The course covers the following areas:

  • Recognise signs and symptoms and provide direct assistance and support;
  • Properly reach out to emergency services on someone’s behalf;
  • Implement the Mental Health First Aid Action Plan;
  • and access to emotional well-being benefits and resources

Within this service, Walmart offers 24/7 confidential counselling services with licensed therapists, said Kim Lupo, the Senior Vice president of Total Global Awards.

“This is just the latest example of how we are reinforcing our commitment to the mental and emotional well-being of our associates,” Lupu shared. “We will continue to offer 24/7 confidential counselling services with licensed therapists at no cost to all associates and their family members, and we will continue to offer our associates the opportunity to get connected any time of the day, with confidential and anonymous virtual support groups with people who are struggling with similar issues.”

Lupo continued to explain that well-being doesn’t just include the ‘absence of illness’, but rather it’s the ‘active presence of wellness’.

“As we head into Mental Health Awareness Month in May, benefits like these will be front and centre as we work to raise awareness for those living with mental or behavioural health challenges and ensure that those who are struggling know that they are not alone,” Lupo said. “We have resources available to help. This is all part of our commitment to helping people live better.”

So, is this an initiative that should be embraced by all retailers moving forward? We asked the experts for their advice about the growing importance of prioritising mental health, and how businesses can introduce services along the way.

It’s no secret that the last two years have seen a shift in the way employees work. Spending more time at home, balancing work, home life, and everything in between, there is more reason than ever to address and pay attention to mental health awareness.

MHA Discussion and Training In Australia

Studies in 2020 have shown that one in five (20 percent) Australians experience mental illness in any year. In 2021, 3.4 million (17 percent) Aussies saw health professionals about their mental health, the ABS reported.

According to Mental Health expert, Rik Schnabel, mental health issues are on the rise. “Anxiety, PTSD, depression, have heightened enormously over the last two years, due to COVID,” he said. “COVID has highlighted the need for socialisation in the workplace.”

Socialisation is a great tool to increase motivation among employees. “Generally, when employees socialise in an organisation, it allows them to shape the way they view work habits, teamwork, and sharing of information, which are all significant factors for a growing business – and growing the individual,” he explained. “Working from home closes or restricts the feedback loop and brings about doubt and uncertainty. Doubt and uncertainty can often be the catalyst to anxiety and depression.”

Almost 12 million Australians are in the workforce; mental health issues can cost the economy $60 billion a year.

With this in mind, mental health can directly impact the outcome of a business, and the effectiveness of an employee’s work if unaddressed. “Mental health issues affect business in that it interrupts the labour supply through absenteeism and productivity in terms of presenteeism (reduced work output),” he explained. “Indirect costs of mental health issues create reduced labour participation. This, in turn, reduces wages, economic growth and tax revenue, and increases consumer welfare costs.”

So, what are the benefits of introducing an MHA scheme to a workplace? According to Schnabel, it can directly lead to a better workplace participation rate, less time off,  and, of course, happier employees. “Investment in workplace mental health could improve workforce participation rates by as much as 30 percent,” he said.

It’s not just the increase in workforce participation. “These benefits include reduced worker’s compensation claims, enhanced productivity, reduced presenteeism, reduced absenteeism, and higher staff retention rates,” he continued.

There’s also an ROI benefit, too. “Indeed, a SafeWork NSW government report released in October 2017 revealed that workplace health promotions have an ROI of $2.86 for small to medium businesses, and $4.01 for large companies,” Schnabel continued. “Yet despite the demonstrated return on investment, only half of Australia’s workplaces have mental health measures in place (SafeWork NSW 2017).”

Rik Schnabel

What To Do About It

After chatting with Rik Schnabel, he explained that there are some key tools to explore if a business is planning to invest in mental health training.

CBT-Based Resilience Training:

“Stress management techniques to learn effective management and cope with setbacks,” he said. “Studies have shown that Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) interventions are effective in reducing stress and improving wellbeing. ROI= $1.70 for every dollar invested.

Manager Mental Health Training:

“Mental health First Aid training has been shown to be effective in reducing work-related sick leave,” he explained. This can be introduced to managers of a business and discussed with teams at every level.

What makes an effective manager? “Be vulnerable,” said Schnabel. “One silver lining of the pandemic is that it is normalising mental health challenges. Almost everyone has experienced some level of discomfort. But the universality of the experience will translate into a decrease in stigma only if people, especially people in power, share their experiences.

Moreover, it’s not just about saying you support mental health, it’s about modelling healthy behaviours. “Model it so that your team members feel they can prioritise self-care and set boundaries. More often than not, managers are so focused on their team’s well-being and on getting the work done that they forget to take care of themselves,” Schnabel said. “Share that you’re taking a walk in the middle of the day, having a therapy appointment, or prioritizing a staycation (and actually turning off email) so that you don’t burn out.”

“Communicate more than you think you need to,” he continued. Schnabel also shared that managers should invest in training, modify policies and practices, and measure the results.

“Ensuring accountability doesn’t have to be complicated; it can be handled in a simple pulse survey done regularly to understand how people are doing now and over time,” he said.

Worksite Physical Activity:

It’s no secret that fitness and activities can release endorphins, which reduce stress and improves mental health. ” Fitness programmes, exercise and fitness coaches. Effective in improving mental health as long as the exercise is sustained. ROI= $2 for every dollar invested,” Schnabel shared.

Are there any discussions that should be avoided when it comes to MHA? Actually, no. “It’s actually a lack of discussions that can result in MH issues,” he said. “Many companies are now offering access to therapists and coaches now. One of our highest levels of demand are companies who are providing access to our services by their employees – usually via the HR departments.”

So, at the end of the day, should retailers invest in mental health awareness? Yes. The answer is yes.

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  1. Rik Schnabel May 14, 2022 at 12:46 PM - Reply

    Thank you for inviting me to contribute to this article and this most worthy cause. I hope this helps businesses to realise the value of implementing a mental health program. Not just for its employees and stakeholders, but also for the continued profitability of the business. Pre COVID, businesses and employees have had enough to deal with. If I can help you in any way, please feel free to reach out.

  2. Rik Schnabel May 14, 2022 at 12:46 PM - Reply

    Thank you for inviting me to contribute to this article and this most worthy cause. I hope this helps businesses to realise the value of implementing a mental health program. Not just for its employees and stakeholders, but also for the continued profitability of the business. Pre COVID, businesses and employees have had enough to deal with. If I can help you in any way, please feel free to reach out.

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