The Small Business HR Podcast

Ep. 20

20. Discussing Mental Health and Mental Illness at Work w/ Melissa Doman, MA

In episode 20, we talked with Melissa Doman about her approach to effectively discuss mental health at work and make an impact on company culture.
Melissa Doman

Melissa Doman, MA

Organizational Psychologist and Author

With everything that transpired in 2020, the discussion of mental health at work became an increasingly important component of a healthy, enduring small business. How can you make an impact and create an open culture surrounding mental health at your workplace? 

Organizational Psychologist and Author Melissa Doman noticed a major theme of work-related mental health issues in her experience as a former clinical mental health therapist. Blending her clinical background with her organizational field experience, she addressed the issue at its core – hosting talks and workshop sessions in actual workplaces. Now, she’s compiled all of her learnings from the field into a guide on discussing mental health at work with her new book, Yes, You Can Talk About Mental Health at Work: Here’s Why (and How to Do it Really Well) and shared her insights on the podcast. 

What we discussed: 

  • How Melissa’s clinical background led her to specialize in mental health at work in an organizational setting
  • How Yes, You Can Talk About Mental Health at Work: Here’s Why (and How to Do it Really Well) came to be and the writing process
  • Why we need to talk more about mental health and mental illness at work 
  • How HR professionals in small and medium-sized businesses can best approach the mental health at work discussion 
  • Why certain mental health at work trends are counterproductive and potentially destructive 
  • How small businesses can avoid the pitfall of counterproductive mental health at work initiatives
  • Examples of how businesses have been coached or helped through the process

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The main reason that I specialize in mental health at work is that a lot of people who came to see me in counseling, regardless of the reason they came for counseling, a major theme that I saw they all shared - none of them felt that they could talk about it at work. That really, really bothered me.”

Melissa Doman, MA

You wouldn’t say to someone ‘Become fluent in Mandarin overnight’, so you wouldn’t ask someone to become fluent in mental health conversations overnight.”

Melissa Doman, MA

It was always an important conversation, but now it is seen as a must-have, non-negotiable conversation. It’s on the table. It’s never going away.”

Melissa Doman, MA

With the faux compartmentalization of work and life, which has been drastically changed in the last couple of years, businesses are realizing that - not only can they not avoid talking about it anymore - but it’s important that they do talk about it.”

Melissa Doman, MA

Think about all the energy that people take to hide what it is they’re going through so their boss or their team or their HR or whoever doesn’t find out - we only have so much energy in a day. So think about how that energy could be redirected if having mental health conversations is just normalized and people are not terrified that they’ll be doubted for the validity of doing their job or people thinking they’re strange. It literally makes no sense not to talk about it.”

Melissa Doman, MA

That’s why folks like me exist and resources like this book exist. So HR folks can not only educate themselves further in terms of the experiential how-to’s to have these sorts of conversations but also talking about the importance of folks in HR sharing their own mental health experiences.”

Melissa Doman, MA

Not all of these conversations have a neat little bow tied around them. They’re not linear. Some are easy, some are emergencies, most are somewhere in between.”

Melissa Doman, MA

Sometimes people just need to feel like crap. They need to feel the negative emotions that are reasonable reactions to transient life events because we’re preprogrammed with those negative emotions for a reason. They are evolutionarily designed to signpost to us or to other people that something is not right and that we need support.”

Melissa Doman, MA

I think that the real why is what matters. If you make it seem like a checkbox exercise that you’re talking about this, your staff will know.”

Melissa Doman, MA

It’s not only about creating the initiative and multiple events to cover these sorts of topics and give the people the education they need but what that looks like in terms of embedding it long term.”

Melissa Doman, MA

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