What did we learn at “Navigating Mental Health at Work?”

Panelists from Fall 2017 symposium.

DSC_5297-1We are always pleased when our symposia draw a full room: it tells us that our chosen topic is deemed both interesting and relevant to you, our supporters and partners. Last week’s Navigating Mental Health in the Workplace drew a high attendance, addressed serious concerns so many of us share, and left us with new resources and ideas. If you missed the event, you can access handouts and webinar recordings on our website.

The day was kicked off by Dr. Nancy Spangler, Consultant to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health for the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, on research relating to resilience. She shared what we do know about stress and resilience, including how it is affected by workplace demands and support, and efforts to reward imbalances. In this discussion she addressed burnout versus engagement, and the impact of mindfulness and skill-building. She raised a question for all of us: Is there enough trust within our work culture for employees to seek or accept support?

Dr. Gina Nikkel, President and CEO of Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care pointed out that we need to be comfortable and safe to have a conversation about what is mental wellness and what our mental health challenges are. She queried attendees on how we share what we know, and what questions do we ask within our communities?

Dr. Nancy Spangler
Dr. Nancy Spangler

Course Director, Jennifer Dimoff, Assistant Professor of I/O Psychology at Portland State University, pointed out that organizations recognize how employees are struggling and how often mental health challenges have been stigmatized. She shared existing tools that can lead us through this, discussing her research, development and evaluation of Mental Health Awareness Training for Managers (MHAT).

Along with Dr. Dimoff, I kicked off the session on Suicide Prevention in Construction, following up on a recent conference in Portland led by a local alliance. We shared the risk factors that increase the risk of suicide in construction, while emphasizing that the risk exists in most other industries, and the importance of suicide prevention. We referenced the document A Construction Industry Blueprint: Suicide Prevention in the Workplace. Deborah Zwetchkenbaum, Assistant Directory of the Crisis Line Program for Lines for Life helped us understand the role and power of crisis line programs, sharing her expertise, experience and resources.

DSC_5288-1Dr. Moreland-Capuia, Executive Director of the Avel Gordly Center for Healing and OHSU Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, helped us understand what it means to be trauma-informed in our approaches. She reinforced what many of us already know – that we need to create work cultures that consider others, and how important it is to recognize the vocabulary around mental wellness and health.  A quote by Dr. Moreland-Capuia that stayed with me was, “If everyone could be trauma informed, the world would be a better place.”

After the final panel and response to questions from the audience, there was no doubt in our minds about the importance in finding and using tools, resources and ideas to help our organizations better address the challenges we all face related to our mental health. We thank all of our speakers, organizers and attendees for joining us for our Fall Symposium. Access handouts and recordings.