In the midst of Mental Health Awareness Month, new National Association of Counties (NACo) research finds counties across the nation “facing an acute escalation of the mental and behavioral health crisis.”
The NACo Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing recently surveyed 232 U.S. counties of varying population sizes from every region of the country. Among responding counties, 75% reported an increase in the incidence of behavioral health conditions in the last year, with 89% reporting an increase compared to five years ago. Eighty percent of counties indicated they have incurred associated costs in the legal system, with 77% saying their counties saying the same about law enforcement in their counties.
In Washington, D.C. earlier this month, NACo President Denise Winfrey was among the leaders joining the White House State and Local Partners Forum on Mental Health and Wellbeing, meeting with the Bipartisan Mental Health Caucus and the Bipartisan Addiction Task Force. There, Winfrey stressed the critical role of mental health in overall well-being.
“If people do not have mental health, they do not have health,” said Winfrey. “With our vast responsibilities in public health, safety, human services, emergency response and more, county governments see the full picture when it comes to mental health. This new data underscores the need for stronger intergovernmental partnerships and outcomes.”
Against this backdrop, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued a memo advocating for mental health awareness, identifying federal workers’ mental well-being as chief concern for the current administration and highlighting an array of wellness resources available to federal agencies and employees.
Cultivating Well-Being in the Federal Workplace
In the memo, OPM details a number of resources the agency released in 2022, designed to assist federal employees in managing and maintaining their well-being, such as a mental health pamphlet and mental wellness in the workplace tip sheet. The agency urged federal agencies to remind employees of the various leave and flexible work options available to aid them in caring for themselves and their family members, such as sick leave for personal medical needs, family and medical leave, parental bereavement leave, alternative work schedules and credit hours under flexible work schedules, for example.
The organization also encourages agencies and employees to rely on employee assistance programs (EAPs) for additional resources and support, as well as access to private, confidential counseling.
“Offered by each federal executive agency, EAPs can be a vital aid in assisting employees with a wide span of problems which may adversely affect morale, performance, and well-being,” the memo read. “Agencies should keep in mind that EAPs should not solely be promoted in the wake of tragedies or negative events, as they can provide mental health counseling and resources which are helpful in maintaining a positive state of mind.”
In addition, the OPM memo shares a brief summary of Mindful Fed, a new interagency community of practice offering a number of services such as mindful space and guided meditations, intended to “help cultivate well-being and resilience in the federal workplace.”
Designed to complement agencies’ total worker wellness goals, Mindful Fed gathers each Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Employees can contact Mindful-FEDemail@example.com to receive email invitations and updates regarding upcoming events.
“OPM has made advocacy and communication regarding resources to support the well-being of federal employees a top priority,” wrote OPM Director Kiran Ahuja.
“We encourage agency leaders to remind employees about the importance of cultivating healthy wellness habits, which include caring for one’s mental health on a proactive rather than reactive basis,” Ahuja wrote.
“Initiating regular conversations surrounding mental and emotional well-being is instrumental in normalizing and destigmatizing receiving mental health treatment and fostering a healthier workforce.”
24 May 2023
HR News Article