Editor’s note: Transform Through Therapy specializes in online group therapy, with a special focus on grief and caregiving. This series talks about COVID-19 and the impact it is having on mental health.
When Trent Mano, co-founder of Room Here, started discussing mental health with colleagues and fellow business owners, he found that it wasn’t resonating in the way he hoped.
It’s easy to think that if you don’t have a mental illness, then talking about your own mental health is a nonissue. But Mano doesn’t agree, so he came up with the term “mental fitness.”
If you think about physical fitness, Mano said, that’s something everyone needs to work on, whether they are fit or not. The same goes for mental fitness — it’s for everyone whether you have mental illness or not.
“It encompasses everyone,” he said.
Room Here is working with tech and start-up companies in Utah, whether they have 10 employees, 500 employees, or 2,000 employees. The goal is the same: to open up conversations about mental fitness in the workplace.
“Work is where people spend most of their waking hours. If we can affect that, that is a thing that can affect individuals, affect families, and affect communities,” he said.
Room Here asks companies to take the Room Here pledge to say that mental fitness matters to us. In conjunction with that, individual employees also sign the Room Here pledge and become a “Roomie”: someone who is an ally, open and free to talk and listen, regardless of what you want to talk about or what you’re feeling.
“The goal is just to normalize the conversation,” Mano said.
In the same way you wouldn’t be embarrassed to say you’re getting a checkup at the doctor or going to the dentist, it should be OK to say you’re going to see your therapist.
Mano points out that it’s important that the stigma associated with mental health issues needs to be addressed from the top leadership, and also from the ground up, so that anyone at any level can feel comfortable talking about this.
And while there are altruistic motivations for companies to care about the mental wellbeing of their employees, those that allow space for them to work on their mental fitness can see positive benefits to their bottom line as well.
Mano looks at absenteeism and “presenteeism,” which refers to how effective an employee is while at work. When there are personal issues, or situations that involve a spouse or kids, these are things that make you less effective than you would be otherwise.
When employees are given the space and opportunity to take care of a situation, to address things at home, then they can bring themselves back to work and be much more present and therefore much more effective in their job.
“Life is complicated. Everyone knows that people have ups and downs, and all of those ups and downs need to be addressed at some point or another,” Mano said.
If you’d like more information, Room Here provides a free service to explain what it means to be a Roomie, and what it means to take the pledge. Visit the group’s website, roomhere.org/, to learn more.
“It’s so heartening to see that people really want to be there for each other and be there for their co-workers, so we are normalizing the conversation,” Mano said.