'Compassion Will go a Long Way’ in Supporting Emotional and Mental Wellbeing: Reducing the Stigma of Mental Health Care
Inflation. COVID-19. Drought. They’re the types of things causing major stress for anyone working in agriculture right now. In extreme cases, that stress can be disastrous to personal health and well-being.
That’s why at Grow West, we take the mental and emotional well-being of our employees, customers and community members so seriously. Especially at a time when it seems stress underlies just about everything we do, supporting well-being starts with a single — sometimes very simple — act.
“It’s all about listening, not just hearing people when they share their struggles with you. It’s active listening and helping out how you can,” said Grow West Vice President of Human Resources Samantha Hanley. “Whether it’s financial strain or something like a child struggling at home, it’s important to listen and help however you can.”
Develop relationships to help manage stress
Open communication may be the first step in the process, but it’s also the foundation for a broader effort to caring for the mental and emotional well-being of ourselves and others. Especially in a professional environment like at Grow West, getting to know one another — especially those with whom you work closely — is an important way to help proactively manage stress.
“You have to know your employees and colleagues. You can’t expect to have open communication if you don’t have a good relationship. Building that relationship and getting to know people so they’re comfortable with you when they do need help or resources is a huge part of stress management,” Hanley said. “That comfort level grows over time, but you can set up the foundation that you truly care. Don’t pry. And don’t just pretend, but actually show you care. Investing time and energy in your employees and colleagues pays off in so many ways.”
Watch for signs of stress
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell when a person is experiencing undue pressure or stress from work, home life or anywhere else. But in many cases, there are warning signs; changes in how a person speaks, for example, might indicate elevated stress levels. Hanley encourages everyone to be attentive for changes in communication tone or frequency that could be a sign that it’s time for a conversation.
“Everyone needs people they can trust when they need to have the conversation, but it’s just as important to connect the dots when you notice changes in behavior that show a person is under a lot of stress,” she said. “We don’t always know what’s going on in someone’s life, but checking in and showing empathy — whether as an employer, co-worker or friend — can help you understand what someone needs and what could help reduce the stress triggers that are so common today.”
Knock down the stigma of mental health care
Proactively creating a working environment in which mental and emotional stress is addressed and minimized isn’t easy. There is sometimes considerable stigma to having a conversation that involves discussing vulnerability to stress that erodes mental and emotional well-being. It’s massively important to demonstrate any such stigma should not impede someone communicating his or her health needs in times of high stress. Sometimes that process starts with providing the right resources, then starting the conversation when a stressed employee or colleague is ready.
At Grow West, for example, an employee assistance program (EAP) provides team members with mental and emotional health resources that can develop into more active stress management.
“We’re starting to see more awareness of the importance of good mental health, and we’re doing more to help support it for our employees, their families and everybody in our community,” Hanley said. “Our EAP provides some great benefits — including up to six free counseling sessions each year — that can help eliminate the stigma of mental health and get people what they need to safely manage their stress.”
Start the mental health conversation
If you feel your mental or emotional health being eroded by stress, reach out to a colleague, friend or family member. If you notice signs in someone else, be ready to take action to help how you can. It can be a formal effort including additional resources — like counseling appointments — or a simple conversation started by listening. Hanley said Grow West is more attentive than ever to the importance of action, especially with the stress facing everyone in its community right now, and encourages team members to reach out to a colleague or anyone else at Grow West if they feel they need help — for themselves or someone close to them.
“We all have things in our lives that we might not be mindful of. Working toward good emotional and mental well-being is all about treating people with respect because you don’t know the crises people are going through. Compassion will go a long way.”