By Cathryn Gunther, Mars Global Head of Associate Health & Wellbeing
Change has been a constant theme over the last two years – we’ve all experienced it in different ways. The heartbreaking geopolitical crises and societal and economic consequences are adding more layers of stress to our lives. Many of us have shown incredible resilience, courage and strength. But for some, the cumulative and prolonged impact of stress, isolation, and burnout has taken a toll on our mental wellbeing. As a global company with a workforce of 140,000 people, Mars can play a critical role in addressing and supporting a culture of mental wellbeing and serve as an exemplar across industries.
Defining the mental health continuum
The definition of mental health grounds us in a way that mitigates stigma. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as a state of wellbeing in which each person realizes his or her own potential and can cope with the stresses of life … where everyone can work productively and make a contribution to their community.
Like other health issues, mental health exists across a continuum. Our state of mental health, or brain health, is dynamic; it can change from day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year. On one end of the continuum, an individual may demonstrate the ability to take daily stress in stride, perform life and work duties well and consistently, and enjoy a lifestyle of good nutrition, healthy sleep patterns, and enjoy the benefits of social and physical activity.
At the opposite side of the continuum, we might struggle or be in crisis with severe symptoms such as panic attacks or a major depressive episode leading to difficulties in performing work or other ordinary daily activities. So mental health is not a binary state – you’re not either mentally healthy or ill. We can find ourselves at any point along this continuum. What matters is that we learn to recognize our own symptoms at the earliest stages and take action.
The prevalence of mental health disorders globally is difficult to quantify, but we know that one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year and one in 25 adults (10 million) live with serious mental illness. Yet nearly 60% of adults with mental illness are not receiving the professional support that would enable them to recover or manage a longer-term disorder and be mentally healthy.
The bottom line: Mental health concerns are serious, complex, costly and prevalent, not to mention often under-diagnosed and stigmatized.
Addressing Associate mental health at Mars
Our approach to health and wellbeing at Mars is holistic – and encompasses the domains of mental, physical, financial health and career growth, as well as inclusion, social belonging and purpose.
We believe mental wellbeing is a critical part of achieving a culture of health and energy where everyone is thriving. We also believe we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in a focused, sustained effort to support the mental, emotional and social needs of our Associates.
Our goals are threefold: to raise awareness and reduce stigma, create a culture of mental wellbeing, and enhance access to services and support. Each of these goals are interdependent, and we offer resources, tools and services that are designed to support our Associates across the globe and provide personalized support as needed.
For example, to increase awareness and reduce stigma, we help leaders, managers and Associates understand the value of a mentally healthy workforce. We strive to normalize conversations about brain health, and offer a myriad of training, experiences, and learning moments to advance our collective understanding of mental health as a key component of a healthy workforce.
To advance a culture of mental wellbeing, we are focusing on establishing healthy ways of working and understanding root causes of stress that we can control. Leadership is encouraged to sponsor mental wellbeing through storytelling, reviewing our systems and processes and learning more about psychological safety in the workplace.
To enhance Associate access to services and support, we have expanded our Associate Assistance Program, partnered with companies that offer personalized support and promoted our primary prevention programs that support stress mastery and holistic health.
As we place more emphasis on mental health in the workplace, we are establishing communities of practice that enable us to share experiences, learnings, programs, tools and solutions.
To help us amplify the impact of our mental health agenda, we’re excited to launch a partnership with One Mind at Work, the world’s largest coalition of organizations committed to developing and implementing a gold standard for workplace mental health and wellbeing. The non-profit organization offers decades of experience, plus the power of a global network, research and translational science.
In summary: We are leaning in on workplace mental wellbeing.
The takeaway: At Mars, we believe it’s our responsibility to talk about mental health in a non-judgmental, supportive way that helps our Associates be the best that they can be. And the time to do that is NOW.