Since 1 in 5 children experience mental illness by the time they’re 18, it’s all but certain there are families in the workplace who are dealing with it.
When Gale King, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for insurance and financial services provider Nationwide, lived in Memphis, Tennessee, she spent a year volunteering at a suicide-prevention hotline. Regularly speaking with people in crisis, including young people at high schools, underscored the importance of mental health awareness. “It’s my personal belief that at some point in our lives, we all need someone to walk along side of us and to provide support and encouragement where needed,” she says.
The Fortune 100 company’s passion for caring for its associates and its commitment to community, along with King’s awareness of the importance of this topic, are what make the company’s focus on having conversations and providing support around mental health a natural fit. And it’s what’s behind the company’s support of Nationwide Children’s Hospital On Our Sleevescampaign, a national movement dedicated to raising awareness of and addressing the stigma around childhood mental illness.
Openly talking about mental health is good for employees, as it helps to remove any stigma related to it; this, King notes, is also good for business. While it would be ideal for employees to be able to focus solely on their work when they’re at the office, that’s not necessarily realistic—if an associate’s child is struggling with any type of illness, it is sure to remain on their mind throughout the day.
“If you’re at work and have a child who is not well or in crisis it impacts your ability to be totally productive,” King says. “You can’t separate those things. We believe when we create an environment where our associates can receive the information, resources, and support they need, both professionally and personally, it enhances their effectiveness at work and their engagement to the company.