American Heart Association CEO Roundtable delivers roadmap to help employers confront America's mental health crisis

Business leaders endorse seven strategies for building a mental health-friendly workplace

March 05, 2019 Categories: Program News

DALLAS, March 5, 2019 — More than 40 CEOs from many of the world’s largest and most admired companies joined with the American Heart Association (AHA) today to advocate an action plan for employers to build a culture that nurtures and supports the emotional and mental health of their workforce.

The AHA CEO Roundtable is promoting “Seven Actionable Strategies for Building a Mental Health-Friendly Workplace” — a roadmap for employers to tackle growing challenges highlighted in the leadership collaborative’s recent report titled, “Mental Health: A Workforce in Crisis.” This roadmap includes reversing pervasive stigma and discrimination towards people managing mental health disorders, training and educating leaders to recognize signs and offering available organizational Mental Health Plan resources, integrating evidence-based policies with comprehensive healthcare benefits, and inviting ongoing employee feedback to enhance workplace culture.

The prevalence of mental illness among employees and the growing economic burden underscore the need for a workplace action plan. Roughly 45 million U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, according to a 2016 National Institute of Mental Health national survey. Depression alone costs the U.S. economy an estimated $210 billion per year, with more than 60 percent of the cost related to treating comorbid conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Additionally, a recent national Harris Insights & Analytics survey commissioned by the AHA CEO Roundtable found three in four U.S. employees surveyed (76 percent) reported struggling with issues that negatively affect their mental health.

The seven actionable strategies defined by an expert panel convened by the Association’s Center for Workplace Health Research and advocated for by the AHA CEO Roundtable will help employers confront the challenges highlighted in the AHA’s “Mental Health: A Workforce in Crisis” report. These strategies include:

  • Leadership: Visibly position leaders to be proactive champions of a diverse and inclusive culture that supports a mental health-friendly workplace.
  • Organizational and Environmental Support: Develop and implement a Mental Health Plan that is easy to access and easy to digest for all employees.
  • Communications: Communicate clearly and often to employees about the organization’s mental health policies, medical benefits, programs, education resources, and training opportunities.
  • Programs and Benefits: Offer a comprehensive package of employee-centered medical benefits and programs.
  • Engagement: Involve employees in all aspects of mental health-related workplace decision-making.
  • Community Partnership: Leverage community partnerships to promote the internal and external objectives of the Mental Health Plan.
  • Reporting Outcomes: Identify evidence-based opportunities to continually improve the mental health and well-being of employees.

Currently led by Johnson & Johnson Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, the 40 plus member CEO Roundtable leadership collaborative, established in 2013, pioneers innovative solutions to improve employee health and engagement through evidence-based interventions. The CEO Roundtable’s goal is to improve the lives of their collective 10 million employees and family members and is part of the AHA’s strategy to build powerful partnerships and develop solutions that accelerate scientific discovery, empower people and promote equitable access to optimal health.

“Mental health is a global issue that faces all of us, and companies are microcultures where people are arriving every day with burdens such as depression and anxiety,” said Nancy Brown, CEO, American Heart Association.  “The first step is understanding that mental health and physical health are intrinsically linked and it’s critical to create a cultural norm where employees are comfortable coming forward and supervisors are equipped to recommend resources for employees to get the help they need.”   

“At Johnson & Johnson, we believe in looking at health holistically: physical, mental and emotional health are inexorably linked,” said Alex Gorsky, Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson. “As an active leader in global mental health advocacy, we support mental health within our workforce through strong leadership, compassionate culture, and innovative technologies. New approaches are evaluated using continuous measurement to understand employee needs and impact.”

“With most Americans receiving healthcare through their employer’s health plan, the CEO Roundtable plays a key role in ensuring that mental health is part of a holistic approach to overall wellness,” said Brian Moynihan, CEO, Bank of America.

The “Mental Health; A Workforce in Crisis” report commissioned by the CEO Roundtable collaborative includes the Harris Insights & Analytics survey results of employees’ attitudes toward and experiences with employers’ mental health offerings in the workplace, including policies, programs, and practices across the prevention spectrum.  It also includes mental health program summaries from Johnson & Johnson, Bank of America, and sixteen other members of the American Heart Association CEO Roundtable.

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About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

For Media Inquiries: 214-706-1173

Jennifer Pratt: 716-432-3307; Jennifer.Pratt@heart.org  

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721) heart.org