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Building a Culture to Foster Mental Health Allyship

By Diana Gallardo, J.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP and Gabrielle Richardson, CSM, CMS

Fostering an environment that speaks about mental health in the workplace is an ongoing process that requires dedication, sensitivity, and a genuine commitment to the well-being of employees. By creating a culture that prioritizes mental health, you can positively impact the lives of your employees and build a healthier, more productive, and supportive work environment. We will refer to this support as mental health allyship.

With the continuous blurring of personal and work life in hybrid and remote work models, colleagues and managers may be among the first to notice when a colleague does or says something amiss or behaves differently from one day to the next. Empower your team to provide support to each other during times of mental health challenges by equipping them with valuable tools for practicing mental health allyship. Outlined below are some ways to help you promote mental health awareness within your organization:  Smaller Scale Initiatives to Foster Mental Health Allyship:

Organize a peer-support program.  It is recommended to “ask peers and ambassadors to do their part in increasing mental health awareness.” (SHRM) 

  • Identify a clear purpose and goals of the peer group. 

  • Set guidelines and expectations for the peer-support group. 

  • Conduct an individual assessment with potential group members to ensure the individual is suitable to join the peer-support group.

  • Create an organizational-wide volunteer-led mental health awareness support group for planning events such as training and awareness sessions. 

Establish a community culture of care. Start with building a community where staff feel safe, connected, and supported. Encourage conversations in your organization and host information sessions. 

  • Create and promote a mental health calendar with key dates and events, and share it with team members on an ongoing basis.

  • Establish a space for discussions and provide resources that promote understanding and empathy. 

  • Cultivate a culture of continuous improvement and learning. 

  • Regularly assess the effectiveness of the organization’s efforts to cultivate a caring culture by conducting a staff survey

Larger Scale Initiatives to Foster Mental Health Allyship: 

Address job strain and toxic workplace contributors. Organizations can promote work-life balance and create a culture that supports mental health allyship. These initiatives can aid in improving overall team satisfaction and creating a positive culture.  

  • Train managers to check in with the team frequently not only about work but also about how they are feeling. 

  • Foster a positive work environment by offering more collaborative projects and open communication within departments. 

  • Circulate mental health resources continuously and keep these up to date (see the list provided below).   

  • Perform a job analysis and review the responsibilities of roles to identify if some may be too demanding. 

Increase Awareness

  • Engage an outside consultant or hire a dedicated specialist to start a mental health group in your organization. 

  • Partner with local mental health organizations, nonprofits, or advocacy groups to collaborate on events, workshops, or campaigns to leverage their expertise and reach a wider audience. These organizations can provide speakers, resources, and guidance on effective strategies. 

Crisis Management

  • Establish a crisis management team consisting of key individuals from relevant departments and the support of mental health professionals. 

  • Create a crisis management plan that clearly outlines procedures, including a communication plan and protocols for each identified crisis scenario. 

In the nonprofit world where compassion and impact intersect, building an organizational culture that fosters mental health allyship is fundamental. By adopting the initiatives outlined above, you can help guide your organization toward a brighter future where your people’s mental health is a priority, employees feel connected and can grow, allowing them to wholeheartedly focus on your mission. The journey is challenging and ongoing, but the rewards are immeasurable. Resources your organization can begin exploring today:

Contact Kiwi Partners’ HR if you need a partner on this meaningful path toward a mentally resilient and empowered workforce.


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