Independent Bank is proud to sponsor the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Small Business Council.  We appreciate the move to the current online format for the “Lunch in the Know” series and hope that it is keeping small businesses engaged and bringing them timely and relevant information.  We thank Quinton Robinson, Tom Heritage, and Jennifer Davis with Cigna Healthcare for their presentation of most recent in the series: “Mental Health Recognition and Response.” 

Here we recap our Top Takeaways:

Challenge the Stigma

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were seeing an increase in loneliness among our population.  Tom tells us that 3 out of 5 people reported feelings of loneliness, and 2 out of 5 claimed they lacked any meaningful connections.  The current state of isolation cannot be helping these numbers!  The effects of the illness (or even just the fear of it) and resulting isolation are widespread, but it’s important to note that stressors affect each of us different, and the stressors themselves are different.  The list of stressors as a result of COVID-19 seem endless: lost jobs, reduced wages, homeschooling, fear, death of loved ones, close quarters with the same people day in and day out; the list goes on and on.  It’s important to realize that all of these things can lead to mental health problems.  Struggling with one’s mental health doesn’t make that person crazy or weak, or even mean he or she has a permanent issue.  It’s time we start recognizing the signs and trying to help.

Mental Health in the Workplace

Tom also tells us that 1 in 5 people in the workplace experience a mental health condition and that each time there is an episode of depression, 36 work days are lost.  Sadly 50% of people with depression go untreated.  Now that we have agreed to challenge the stigma, how do we combat mental illness in the workplace?  Jennifer advises that it is important to allow yourself flexibility – as an individual but also as an employer.  There is an increased need for understanding.  This may take different forms depending on your organization.  If you are in the habit of recording your virtual meetings, Jennifer suggests turning off the recorder and asking people how they are doing – off the record.  Get everyone to name his or her stressor – not just the most vocal among the group.  Get things out in the open and get people talking.  Watch your team.  If you identify someone that might be having difficulty coping, follow up with that person! 

The Three R’s

Recognize the signs of emotional distress.  We need to be able to identify the signs that someone we know is struggling.  These might include: noticeable mood or behavior changes, a withdrawal from friends, uncharacteristic fatigue, difficulty completing tasks or even showing up for work.   Reach out if you see this going on.  This can be difficult.  Society has made us feel like we shouldn’t talk about these types of problems or that we should just leave it to the professionals.  But expressing your concern, listening, and offering reassurance might be just what this person needs to seek help.  Resource help and support with your friend or co-worker.  These resources might include an Employee Assistance Program offered by your company, their primary care physician, or a licensed mental health therapist, counselor or doctor.  The State of Tennessee offers the Tennessee REDLINE, which offers referrals for mental health issues. 

Strengthen Your Mental Health

Tom and Jennifer also shared with us 10 ways to strengthen your mental health, and we've published blog articles on many of their suggestions if you are interested to read more.

A big thank you to the team from Cigna for sharing their insight with us!  We’d also like to thank our fellow sponsors Southland Casino Racing and Baptist Memorial Health Care as well as Waddell and Associates for making the Zoom meeting possible. If you missed the webinar or would like to see it again, a recorded version can be accessed on the Greater Memphis Chamber website.