Given the tumult of 2020-2021 and nearly 20% of people in the United States currently experiencing a mental illness (Mental Health America), it's no surprise that mental health is a prominent topic in 2022. From workplaces to retail spaces, everyone is invited, and often expected, to join the conversation surrounding psychological, emotional, and physical well-being. Associations are no exception. More than ever, members are looking for resources that will help them navigate the mental health and well-being challenges that are unique to their communities. Thus, associations are positioned for new responsibility to support members, as well as new opportunity to add value. With the APA’s Psychology Week coming up on April 17-April 23 and Mental Health Awareness Month around the corner in May, now is a good time for your association to consider how you can support your members in this way. Looking for somewhere to start? Here is a list of some surprisingly simple ways to mind your members:
Whether your association publishes a blog, a newsletter, a social media page, or a download center, your members will likely be looking online for resources first. Meet them there with all or any of the following:
A message of support. A sincere and personal message of support from organizational leadership goes a long way for someone struggling with mental illness. Take a moment to let your members know they are not alone and point them to support your organization makes available.
Original resources. Write a blog or article post or series providing mental health tips that your audience will find helpful, or provide expert advice for navigating specific challenges in your audience's community.
A round-up of helpful third-party resources. A simple note on your website with a list of links to third-party resources specific to your members' area of interest is a great way to equip members when your organization doesn't have the intellectual capital to develop resources. Round-ups like this could include relevant YouTube interviews, blog posts from partner organizations, articles from the American Psychological Association, a list of social media accounts to follow, pages for events on the topic, etc.
Data to raise awareness. Create statistical infographics that will build awareness and help your members understand their colleagues' challenges with mental health.
Social media toolkits. Curate a hub of graphics, captions, and hashtags that make it easy for your members to show support and engage in the conversation with their own networks.
Start the Conversation
Creating space for members to discuss challenges and find support is one of the most important jobs of a membership-based organization in general, but this is especially true when it comes to mental health and well-being. Fostering camaraderie and support provides an opportunity to lift spirits and inspire courage. Consider whether these conversation-starting opportunities are suitable to your organization:
Roundtable discussions. Take some time during your next in-person or virtual meeting to open the floor for polite and constructive discussion of this topic. Perhaps your members function as part of a niche community that is greatly affected by mental health issues; time to discuss and feel a sense of community can be remarkably relieving.
Member forums and chatrooms. If your organization hosts online forums, consider starting a thread on best practices for mental health and well-being. This is also a great way for those who care for others to gain an understanding of how they can be supportive to those may be suffering with mental health challenges.
Leverage Your Programming
Associations are often pleasantly surprised at how many members turn out for programming relating to mental health and well-being. The turn-out is a testament to the high demand for education on this important topic. Leveraging your programming for such discussions needn't be complicated or confusing. Here are some simple ways to get started:
Keynotes. More likely than not, there is an expert on mental health that can speak to the unique challenges of your membership base. Locate a trained mental health coach or psychologist who is able to address your members' questions. For example, if you serve a membership of consultants, recruit a presenter that can speak to the important nuances of healthy client boundaries and ground rules for respectful communication. You might even consider collecting questions in advance that will help your speaker understand the audience's needs.
Webinar Panels. Webinars provide an accessible opportunity to reach your members, and panels provide the diversity of thought that is so important when it comes to well-being. Round up some of your membership community's key leaders and provide a space for them to share the experiential wisdom they have gained in this area.
Mental illness is a sensitive topic that should be handled with utmost care and respect. As such, the topic deserves attention to detail and extra consideration. Here are some tips to ensure your mental health resources always make members feel safe and supported:
When in doubt, consult a professional. When addressing sensitive issues like these, there is no shame in asking a trained professional for input or advice. It is important not to alienate or invade privacy, but innocent questions of good intent can often do just that.
Seek first to understand. As you seek to educate and support your members, expose yourself to as much education on the topic as possible. Today, resources on mental health and well-being are readily and abundantly available to those who care enough to access them. You'll find that knowledge increases sensitivity and thoughtfulness as you plan to support members in this way.
Inauthenticity is worse than unresponsiveness. It is critically important that efforts in this area come from a place of sincerity, authenticity, and genuine regard for others. Incorporation of any of the aforementioned tips for the sole purpose of non-dues revenue or relevance as an organization can create a culture that is counter-productive to mental health and well-being.
It's always worth the extra effort. When it comes to this issue, the extra proof-read, the clarifying conversation, and articulation of things that should "go without saying" is always worth it. Better that you spend a few extra minutes refining your statements than inadvertently causing offense or psychological injury.
Ready to incorporate these tips but need some help? Our team would love to assist you today.
American Psychological Association. (2022, March 25). APA recognizes week to celebrate psychology. Retrieved from apa.org: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/03/psychology-week
Reinert, M., Nguyen, T., & Fritze, D. (2021). The State of Mental Health in America 2022. Alexandria, VA: Mental Health America.