I had to pleasure to attend the Mental Health Task Force in Forsyth County recently. They are doing an admirable job of bringing people together with one agenda in mind: how to effectively help individuals, both adult and child, who are struggling daily with their mental challenges.

I heard the term “Mental Health” several times. It was in reference to the fact that we all, at some point in our lives, have some sort of mental challenge. The goal is to enhance mental health and strengthen those who have been diagnosed with the most effective treatment. It is very sad that this country cannot find an affordable way to support and intervene with appropriate care designed to mitigate the symptoms and enhance one’s innate ability to bounce back resiliently.

We must continue to fight the stigma of mental illness. Many believe the myth that one is doomed to have these challenges throughout their lives. There is also the belief that one cannot “get over” their illness. Unfortunately, I continuously hear about organizations that, even when they are aware that an employee is struggling, do little to nothing until finally the employee does something egregious resulting in termination. This breaks my heart.

So what do our organizations and academic institutions need to do to intervene? First, they must have supportive leadership that engenders trust and care for the employees. This enables affected employees to feel that they can speak up about their difficulties. Second, leadership must be trained in the signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other illnesses so that they are aware of the signs and symptoms and know what to do and where to go for help. Third, I’d like to leave this with you. One of my HR folks at one of my client companies shared this with me: “Mental illness should be considered as another facet of diversity.”

When thinking about it in terms of diversity, it takes on a whole new meaning. Perhaps we can all think this way and protect and support those individuals who struggle every day to fit the “norm.”

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