As a leader in total health, Kaiser Permanente understands the importance of supporting the mental health and wellness of our employees and physicians to inspire, encourage, and motivate them to live healthier lives, ensuring that they continue to thrive and provide high-quality care and service to our members.
Our workforce well-being model – a multi-function approach that integrates the total health experience of mental health and wellness, physical health and safety, career and financial wellness, healthy relationships and community involvement – is foundational to how we support our employees’ overall health, ensuring they have access to the help they need, when and where they need it. We apply a model for mental health and wellness based on evidence of what works, measurable outcomes, integration of emerging technologies and breaking barriers caused by stigmas.
Don Mordecai, M.D., Kaiser Permanente’s National Leader for Mental Health and Wellness, suggests that it’s important for all of us to learn behavioral signs indicating a person may be at risk, how to discuss depression and suicidal thoughts and what to do if someone tells you they need help. We must build a culture that supports a stigma-free environment, where employees feel safe to openly talk about mental health and wellness, and where our workplace encourages more dialogue and provides support for those who are reaching out for help.
In 2016, Kaiser Permanente embarked on a focused effort to address stigma around mental health conditions. Through our public health awareness campaign, “Find Your Words,” we educate and encourage everyone to speak up about their mental health needs and access resources and support. We have showcased those resources internally and encourage our leaders, managers and supervisors to share personal stories about their own mental health and wellness, modeling resilience, vulnerability and authenticity to help spread the message that our mental health matters and should be regarded as a vital part of our total health. These stories have proven to be a powerful way to help end the stigma around mental health and wellness, raise awareness and spread hope.
We regularly promote our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for anyone who is facing mental health issues. The EAP licensed therapists meet our employees and their dependents “where they are,” providing initial counseling, supporting self-care and making referrals. EAP also provides immediate response to critical incidents in the workplace. Almost all Kaiser Permanente employees are also KP Health Plan members and can access the full range of clinical offerings, including providing easy-to-access resources and services that support our employees’ ability to lead resilient, mentally healthy and meaningful lives.
Kaiser Permanente utilizes an annual employee survey and workforce health data to guide our work and meet the mental health and wellness needs of our growing and evolving employee population; feedback from the survey helps to inform strategy and development of future programs. The survey includes 5 questions specific to a culture of health and well-being (Culture of Health Index), such as leadership role modeling, direct supervisor support of health and well-being and organizational support in creating supportive work environments. This index shows a specific correlation between Kaiser Permanente having a strong culture of health and well-being and our organizational outcomes, such as improved attendance and reduced workplace injury.
To help our workforce manage stress, build resilience, practice mindfulness and gratitude, promote respect and kindness, and find joy and meaning in their lives, we provide programs and activities – such as Kaiser Permanente’s Healthy Workplace Activities Policy, One-Moment Meditation, Gratitude Trees, our Pathways to Happiness trainings and Health and Happiness for the Holidays campaign. These programs help to engage employees in creating a supportive and safe, stigma-free environment. Web-based education on various mental health and wellness topics are available to our workforce year-round, including trainings geared toward leadership, managers and supervisors on how to build a culture of health and well-being for their teams.
Future efforts include the implementation of a new online mental health and wellness training for employees, managers and supervisors to learn how to identify the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and be able to assist someone – a co-worker, colleague or loved one – in need. Our goal is that 100% of our workforce receives mental health training within the next three years.
Kaiser Permanente is committed to continue creating a stigma-free workplace, where support for and awareness of mental health is high, where education and resources are easily accessible and where employees feel safe to seek the help they need.
Bernard J. Tyson
Chairman and CEO