Total Brain Study: 86% of US Workers Want a Corporate Culture that Embraces Open Mental Health Dialogue

Company responds with #thisisnormal, a multi-channel brand campaign to drive honest mental health conversations

In an opinion poll released today by Total Brain, working Americans overwhelmingly (74%) agree that their employers genuinely care about the mental health of their workers. Further, nearly half (44%) say their corporate leadership is empathetic when it comes to their mental health concerns. Yet, caring and empathetic leadership is not enough for employees returning to the workplace after a year-long ride on a pandemic-fueled roller coaster.

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Against the backdrop of accelerated vaccine administration and an anxious workforce increasingly being called back to the workplace, half of U.S. workers believe that their employers’ have not done enough to address the mental health impacts of COVID-19. Further, survey findings reveal that the vast majority of workers do not feel that their employer has created an open workplace culture when it comes to mental health. A staggering 86% say that they want their employer to build a corporate culture that encourages candid conversations and honest dialogue about mental health issues and challenges. 

These findings align with a pre-pandemic poll by the American Psychiatric Association stating that as many as half of U.S. workers say they are not comfortable talking about their mental health in the workplace; and one third are worried about the consequences of those conversations.

“Many corporate leaders, while caring and empathetic, are not fully aware of the range of issues and challenges their employees are facing; nor the fear employees have about coming forward seeking help,” noted Louis Gagnon, CEO, Total Brain. “The face of anxiety, depression and PTSD is not always what one imagines. Mental health issues are often silent and invisible.”

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Added Gagnon, “Measuring and benchmarking mental health issues within an organization; bringing conversations to the forefront; and encouraging your employees, especially those in leadership positions, to open up about their own challenges has never been more important.”

In response to the survey findings, Total Brain has launched #thisisnormal, a multi-channel brand campaign designed to break the stigma associated with mental health and bring mental health struggles out of the shadows. Over the next month, and extending through the year, Total Brain will leverage a mix of targeted digital, social, print and experiential advertising. Total Brain is challenging people’s preconceived notions about what mental conditions look like. The company is inviting business leaders, employees and mental health clinicians to reflect on their own mental health; and encouraging them to defy the stigma surrounding mental health by sharing a photo of themselves and their story of mental health challenges.

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“Large employers understand that the transition back to the workplace for many employees may create additional stress, on top of existing anxieties and other negative impacts of the pandemic era,” said Colleen McHugh, executive vice president of the American Health Policy Institute and strategic advisor of HR Policy Association. “While the latest Mental Health Index shows a 51% increase in the risk of PTSD among employees ages 40-59, large employers are engaged at the c-suite level in tackling this and the stigmatization around all mental and behavioral health problems. Through the increase in new initiatives and technologies, our hope is that conversations around mental and behavioral health begin to normalize and there will be better access to providers and support services for employees and their families.”

“The data shows that recent events present leaders with a golden opportunity to improve the future of work for workers and organizations,” said John Boudreau, professor emeritus of Management and Organization and a senior research scientist with the Center for Effective Organizations, University of Southern California. “Improving mental health and mental fitness can offer immense mutual benefits.”

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