Working Well: Leading a Mentally Healthy Business

"Companies must raise awareness about mental health and provide the necessary support and resources in order to build a more inclusive culture that enables all professionals to thrive." - Stephen R. Howe Jr., EY's U.S. Chairman and Americas Managing Partner

2015-11-10-1447194972-7696616-WorkingWellCEO1PagerFinal.jpgOn October 29, 2015, at the New York Stock Exchange, National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City (NAMI-NYC Metro) and Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) co-hosted the first-ever CEO Summit on Mental Health in the Workplace in collaboration with The Kennedy Forum, the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, and Partnership for Workplace Mental Health.

Twelve business leaders from different regions of the U.S. representing multiple industries met to discuss how companies could foster a culture that promotes, supports and improves the mental health of their employees and their families.

  • Castlight Health - CEO and Founder Giovanni Colella, MD
  • Dynex Capital - President and CEO Byron L. Boston
  • EY - U.S. Chairman and Managing Partner and Americas Managing Partner Stephen R. Howe, Jr.
  • J. Walter Thompson New York - President Lynn Power
  • Liberty Bank - President and CEO Chandler Howard
  • meQuilibrium - CEO and Co-Founder Janesse (Jan) Bruce
  • NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital - Executive Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees Herbert Pardes, M.D.
  • Orix Real Estate Americas - President and CEO Jim Dunn
  • Partnership for New York City - President and CEO Kathryn Wylde
  • Pershing Square - CEO and Founder William (Bill) Ackman
  • The Advertising Council - President and CEO Lisa Sherman
  • Time Equities Inc. - President and Founder Francis J. Greenburger

The CEOs were joined by nationally renowned mental health advocates including Rep. Patrick Kennedy, New York City's First Lady Chirlane McCray, Mary Giliberti of NAMI, and Dr. Paul Summergrad, Chairman of Psychiatry at Tufts University and the immediate past President of the American Psychiatric Association.

The CEO Summit was observed by 100 invited guests including dozens of human resources and benefits representatives from U.S. and global employers such as American Express, Barclays, CBS Corporation, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, National Football League, and Prudential.

Bill Ackman, CEO and Founder of Pershing Square Capital Management, kicked off the session. The discussion ranged from CEOs sharing personal experiences and perspectives to the substantial economic costs incurred when employee mental health is ignored. They highlighted the power and influence that employers hold in terms of their commercial health plan purchasing and how employers are in a position to transform policy into practice. They discussed best practices around how to use mental health as an employment engagement tool which can ultimately be a lever for broader social change.

The numbers are powerful. One in five Americans experience mental illness in any given year and conditions often affect people during their prime working years. Even though treatment for the most common conditions is effective 80 percent of the time only 33 percent of the people who need help will get it. Social stigma, fear of repercussions at work, and the lack of access to quality, affordable services, keep many from receiving the care they need.

Stigma's mark -- shame and disapproval -- can prevent those who are impacted by mental illness from seeking and adhering to treatment. The damaging stereotypes can also result in a lack of mental health literacy so an employee doesn't know what to do when it's time to support an ill sibling, parent, child, life partner or even oneself.

Several CEO Summit participants mentioned the effectiveness of workplace anti-stigma campaigns. Companies like American Express, Deutsche Bank Americas, Interactive Health, J. Walter Thompson and PricewaterhouseCoopers have all used the nationally recognized #IWILLLISTEN campaign as a component of their overall workplace mental health strategy. #IWILLLISTEN is an award-winning social media based mental health campaign designed to create awareness of the prevalence of mental illnesses and reduce the stigma associated with them. If you are interested in using the #IWILLLISTEN campaign in your workplace, contact NAMI-NYC Metro.

CEO Summit organizers introduced a Working Well toolkit for employers which can be found on NAMI-NYC Metro's workplace webpage. The toolkit provides HR professionals and business leaders with practical information on ways to promote a mentally healthy workplace. It includes case studies from some of the world's leading corporations and is organized in four sections: Know the Impact, Break the Silence, Deliver Affordable Access, and Build a Culture of Wellbeing, outlined in "Working Well: Principles for Leading a Mentally Health Business".

The CEO Summit underscored the importance of engaging employees on mental health as part of a workplace culture that seeks to improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management.

Barbara Ricci, President, NAMI-NYC Metro
Wendy Brennan, Executive Director, NAMI-NYC Metro