By Molly Gosselink on Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Why talking about mental health in the workplace matters

HSI Annual Conference to start the conversation on May 14

An individual’s mental health is as unique as their thumbprint.

We all have different needs when it comes to mental health: Some may have a diagnosed mental illness they have to carefully manage every day, while others may only be affected by stress occasionally and it is relieved when they go for a walk or talk with a friend.

Our mental health impacts all aspects of our lives, including the time we spend at work, affecting our productivity, creativity and professional relationships. Acknowledging that all employees have mental health needs, in addition to physical health needs, is important and is an issue all Iowa companies must address.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER Q&A: 'We need to make bold moves' on mental health 

Each industry has its own unique stresses. A report released in November 2018 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, describes the rates of suicide by occupation. Men working in construction have the highest rates of suicide while women working in the arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media are most at risk.


The authors also of this study emphasized the importance of addressing mental illness in the workplace because that is where many adults spend the majority of their day. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. What works at a manufacturing plant may not resonate with hospital employees. It is up to the individual workplace to cultivate a culture where employees feel supported, both physically and emotionally.

Where should Iowa companies start?

The Healthiest State Initiative 2019 Annual Conference on May 14 in Ames will address this issue. Join us as we explore: How do we cultivate a workplace where employees are supported?

The Annual Conference will highlight ways employers can:

  • Help employees navigate (and prevent) stress at work
  • Implement an effective financial wellness program
  • Promote physical wellness with a focus on mental health
  • Respectfully connect an employee with the help they need

The Annual Conference will also feature influential Iowans who will share their stories of living with a mental illness, Iowa companies who have successfully implemented a variety of mental health-focused programs and an interactive keynote address from Sarah Noll Wilson that will help attendees turn their new-found awareness into action plans. 

REGISTER: Sign-up to attend the 2019 Annual Conference

It starts with you.

Many employees may choose not to disclose their mental illness or current stressors. They may not feel comfortable discussing the topic at work or fear being perceived as weak or vulnerable in a professional setting. However, there are ways to have these conversations in the workplace that can strengthen the team, and in turn create more loyalty to the company or organization.

Make it OK: How you can reduce stigma of mental illness

One way to make a difference in your workplace is as an individual. Acknowledge that no one is immune to pain, and if you see a co-worker struggling with a mental illness or life experience, it’s OK and important to recognize it.

Brene Brown said,           

“My mom taught us to never look away from people’s pain.

The lesson was simple:

Don’t look away. Don’t look down.

Don’t pretend not to see hurt.

Look people in the eye.

Even when their pain is overwhelming,

And, when you’re in pain,

Find the people who can look you in the eye.

We need to know we’re not alone-especially when we’re hurting.”

The workplace may not always be the right environment to have a personal conversation. But, the workplace culture can make employees feel comfortable feeling these emotions and asking for the help they need.

Annual Conference 2019: Putting Awareness into Action

Presented by HealthPartners UnityPointHealth

May 14

8:30 a.m. — 4:30 p.m.

Scheman Building at Iowa State Center in Ames


mollyMolly Gosselink is the program and events coordinator for the Healthiest State Initiative.  Molly worked for more than a decade in nursing, with a focus on maternal-child health in both the acute care and community settings, before earning a Masters of Public Health from Des Moines University. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities for the Annual Conference, email