Keeping the Mental Health Conversation Front and Center

Category: Blog

You might be familiar with a documentary called Stutz, which was produced by actor, comedian, and filmmaker Jonah Hill. He was intent on telling the story about the life-changing impact that his therapist had on his life, and reviews say Stutz heartwarmingly underscores the importance of an active focus on your mental health.

The subject of mental health has increasingly become a workplace priority, and for good reason. While the top-four qualities that people look for in a leader haven’t changed much in the last forty years, according to The Leadership Challenge coauthors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, what has dramatically changed is the complexity of our environment.

We’re not only performing complex jobs, but we’re also processing layer upon layer of external trauma—from war and social unrest to pandemics and natural disasters—not to mention any potential stress we encounter at home. “One silver lining amid all the disruption and trauma is the normalization of mental health challenges at work,” say Kelly Greenwood and Julia Anas in Harvard Business Review.

Interestingly, respondents to Kouzes and Posner’s longitudinal research have recently added dependability and support to the traditional top-four leadership qualities they look for: honesty, competency, inspiring, and forward-looking. These findings underscore what I experience with my leadership teams. Leadership development is really about human development. It’s not until we unpack our own fears and limiting behaviors that we can start to productively handle conflict and collaboration in the workplace. 

When Hill unpacked some of his fears and behaviors in the documentary, what I found so beautiful about the conversations were the tools that Stutz literally illustrated on note cards to share with his patients so they have them at the ready. My favorite tool that he gives to Hill is how to think about gratitude. He explained gratitude in a way that I hadn’t heard before and found really useful. No spoilers here; I’m not going to tell you, so you can enjoy the moment when you watch the scene.

What I will tell you is that gratitude has far-reaching positive effects. When we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin—two critical neurotransmitters that make us feel good, enhance our mood, and give us a rush of happy emotions. Gratitude also pushes toxic emotions out of the way and has lasting positive effects on your brain—all great outcomes that we need more of in today’s workplace.

The reality is that employees don’t experience their mental health issues in isolation from work. Employees are now looking for dependability and support in addition to the enduring four qualities mentioned above. Greenwood and Anas report that 91 percent of research respondents believe that a company’s culture should support mental health. As demographics continue to play a major role in workplace wellness, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) has to be blended into the solutions. I encourage you to make time for Stutz. It’s helping us keep the mental health conversation front and center, which is where it should stay for the foreseeable future.

Meet a Friend On My Stoop

In the spirit of gratitude, I’d love to let you in on a great service my dear friend Belinda Liu and her team are providing for organizations that want to accelerate trust, conversation, and community through gratitude. I’ve used some of their terrific tools in my workshops and dialogues, and I would love for you to know about them. Learn more about Blooming Gratitude here.

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