Belonging, critical to good mental health

Belonging, critical to good mental health

Good mental health is not always easy to establish or maintain. People can find their mental health struggles complicated by psychological patterns, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed illness, agony anchors, trauma triggers and unresolved grief. But there is hope to improve mental health.  

Paying attention to how each employee is doing mentally – and addressing concerns – is important for both for the individual and the organization as a whole.  

“In the past two years, grief and loss have been profound around the globe,” said Chief Public Affairs Officer Teresa Waugh, speaking about overlapping crises of social and political unrest, polarized societal views, historic drought, extreme wildfires, the atrocities of global conflict. “Many of our colleagues have experienced tremendous and unexpected loss. Grief can run deep because it is often not easy to process or to resolve.” 

She explained that optimism and finding joy in the face of despair have been particular interests of hers for decades. She also explained that difficulties with mental and emotional well-being can have an impact on one’s professional life, as they are often tied to “a sense of belonging.” 

In 2020, a Deloitte Survey showed that belonging, along with well-being, is a top concern for organizations around the world through the year 2024. Of those surveyed, 93% also agreed that a sense of belonging drives performance.  

Mental health struggles can make it difficult for employees to feel as though they belong. They can lead to individuals feeling isolated, trapped within their minds and unable to connect. As people attempt to process grief, trauma and other challenges, it can be easy for them to lose sight of the fact that others may be able to help.  

“There is no shame in seeking support and practicing self-care,” said Administrator and CEO Tracey LeBeau in a May 25 email to employees. “In fact, I encourage you to do so. Whether it be fear of violence, the continued pandemic or any number of other world or personal events, these are incredibly challenging times for many. Take the time you need to recenter and use the resources we have available.” 

Waugh provided several suggestions for helping to stay mentally healthy during challenging times. Her first suggestion was for employees to check their assumptions. 

“Mental health is impacted by how we interpret information,” she explained. “Emotional health is how we feel about the information that we process. It’s crucial to check our assumptions to make sure what we are processing is true and, whenever possible, to understand the why behind what is happening to us.” 

She also suggested taking ownership of one’s own emotions and working to manage them as well as possible. 

“Organizations with strong cultures exhibit social sensitivity, which is an ability of group members to properly perceive each other’s emotions,” she said, “but it’s the individual’s responsibility to manage their own emotions. For those who have suffered and are still struggling with loss, grief counseling can be a lifeline and provide a solid footing from which to navigate. Mentors and coaches can be found on Learning Nucleus.” 

She mentioned the importance of bringing the right mindset to the right situation, which she referred to as “slowing down to show up.” 

“It’s important to be ready to show up at any given time with the right mindset,” she said. “To do that, it is imperative to slow down and rehearse correct emotional responses. When under pressure or becoming reactive, take pause. One deep breath may turn a reaction into a response.” 

In addition, she suggested taking time to help others feel as though they belong and making an effort to listen to and hear them. 

“Let’s aim to trade judgement with empathy, sarcasm with support and, when in doubt, be inclusive,” she advised.  

“Let’s not cast a stigma on those who seek support,” said LeBeau. “Collectively we can make a difference in each other’s lives by simply being kind, showing grace and offering support. Let’s do what we say, and that is to do what is right, and do what is safe. I want you to know that I support you and your colleagues support you. Let’s do what we can to support each other.” 

Employee Assistance Program

One option that is always available is the Employee Assistance Program. The EAP is a partnership between the Department of Energy and mental health service Espyr. It is open to federal WAPA employees and their family members.  

The EAP offers sessions for the purposes of problem identification, short-term counseling, referral for long-term treatment or rehabilitation and follow-up. The service is completely confidential, and it can help employees in terms of managing stress, controlling drug and alcohol use, increasing productivity and motivation, overcoming loss, handling personal problems and more. 

Employees using the EAP will receive a personal assessment to determine their needs and, if they are eligible, they will be referred to a licensed provider within 48 hours of their initial call.

Contact the EAP  

Employees can reach the EAP at any time for immediate assistance. For more information visit myWAPA, Employee Resources, Employee Assistance Program.

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Last modified on March 12th, 2024