May is mental health month. September is suicide prevention month and also recovery month. These are good opportunities to launch mental health topics, hire mental health awareness speakers, and encourage people to tell their stories. Have panels, plan icebreakers, share resources, run surveys, and introduce mindfulness activities.

As for a speaker, look for one who inspires and motivates through storytelling, offers practical strategies, and offers interactive activities. Make sure they highlight ways to cope with anxiety and depression. All this helps destigmatize and normalize a subject that has been stuffed in the closet for too long.

But don’t stop there, keep it going throughout the year

If you only focus on mental health during mental health month, you are not creating a culture of workplace wellness, you’re checking a box.

Same if you work in a school. Students and staff need consistent, year-round messaging, support, and opportunities to learn coping skills and connect.

Underdeveloped coping skills are a problem in the digital world

We used to learn those skills through face-to-face interactions, especially during unsupervised play outside. But this generation is getting half the face time of previous generations. That means people are not developing the skills and strategies to cope with life’s challenges.

So we need to be more intentional about integrating opportunities to inspire critical thinking and problem-solving in our work and learning environments.

Use mental health month as your foot in the door

You may have gotten pushback in the past about hiring mental health speakers and offering wellness programming in your school or workplace.

But do know that upper management or an administration is less likely to deny approval during mental health month. Make sure you also get permission to do a follow-up survey with employees or students to see what they liked, and what they’d like to see going forward.

Those survey results are likely to sway management that it’s worth the investment. Because that’s what helps you launch and build that consistent workplace wellness culture. And all that starts with little changes and an inside champion.

Consistent follow-up wellness programming helps you maintain momentum

Good mental health awareness speakers are storytellers who can kick off a wellness initiative. But what’s important are the follow-up programs to maintain the motivation and build the skills. You’ll find most mental health speakers will offer packages for clients who are returning customers.

And if they are not cookie-cutter speakers, they’ll customize their programs to help you resolve a lot of your internal mental health challenges. Because emotionally healthy people perform better, are absent less, and work better with others.

Helpful links to mental health awareness speaker programs for workplaces and schools: