Author: Grace He, People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Mental Health Awareness Month is an observance meant to bring awareness to mental health issues. This month is typically celebrated in May, though some organizations and countries observe the occasion in October. Examples of ways to acknowledge Mental Health Awareness Month at work include offering mental health screenings, hosting a craft night, or planning an exercise session. These activities aim to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues.
The holiday is an example of employee engagement campaigns, staff wellness activities, and ways to create a positive working environment. You can also celebrate by sharing quotes about mental health awareness.
This list includes:
- Mental Health Awareness Month event ideas
- Mental Health Awareness Month activities
- Virtual Mental Health Awareness Month ideas
- Ways to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month at work
Here we go!
List of Mental Health Awareness Month Ideas
Millions of Americans deal with mental health issues every day. Therefore, it is essential for companies to create an environment where team members feel safe and supported. In 1949, Mental Health America designated May as Mental Health Awareness Month. This event aims to support mental health and bring awareness to the issues faced by so many.
These Mental Health Awareness Month ideas are a great way to encourage discussions and promote mental health.
1. Offer a Wellness Gift
One of the most remarkable ways to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month at work is through gift-giving. One way to do this is to provide each team member with a wellness gift that they can utilize throughout the month.
Examples of items to include:
- Reusable water bottle
- Gratitude journal
- Scented candles
- Gift cards to health stores
- Stress balls
- Self-help book
- Playdough or clay
- Adult coloring book and pencils
- Relaxation gifts like a heated neck pillow
Another option would be to have team members do a wellness gift exchange. This option is great if there is little to no budget for providing gifts to employees. However, set a reasonable price limit to eliminate added stress.
Check out more employee gift ideas.
2. Leave Work at Work
Many times, team members check in on work tasks after the workday. Sometimes overwork involves checking emails in off-hours or bringing a project home to finish. However, having no downtime, or interrupted time at best, is detrimental to mental health. For the month, encourage employees to leave work at work. Urge staff to wrap up tasks at the end of the workday and avoid logging in after a set time.
Beyond hard stopping points, you can also promote regular breaks throughout the workday. This time allows team members to decompress and create stronger boundaries between work and home life.
Employees can spend this disconnection time meditating, reading a novel, listening to music, or sitting outside and enjoying nature. Mentally resetting is vital to mental health.
Here is a list of ways to improve work-life balance.
3. Disconnect from Daily Distractions
Many folks today rely on social media and technology. However, study after study shows the harmful effects these things can have on mental health. One of the easiest Mental Health Awareness Month ideas is encouraging team members to disconnect. While it is impossible to disconnect entirely for a month, there are ways to cut down on social media and technology.
If employees are willing, then encourage them to turn off social media notifications for May. Not receiving constant pings and alerts creates a more peaceful and healthy environment. Serious participants can delete social media apps from their phones for the month. This act will reduce mindless scrolling and the inevitable comparisons and thoughts from the influx of posts.
Bare minimum, encourage team members to disconnect for a brief period each day. This period can be turning everything off for 20 minutes after employees get home from work. Or, teammates can vow to put away their phones at a particular time each evening.
4. Get Outside
Being outdoors helps relieve stress for team members who spend most of their day inside. There are many ways to get employees outside. For instance, plan a company picnic during the month. This event can be on a Saturday and include families. Or take an afternoon off of work and prepare an outdoor lunch for team members. You could also plan a company hike for a weekend day.
For a low-key activity, encourage employees to take a 15-minute walk every day. If your office is near a park, there are likely plenty of plants and sights to take in during a quick nature walk. If the supervisors lead by example, team members are more likely to take part.
Here are some outdoor activities for teams.
5. Offer Mental Health Screenings
Team members might unknowingly struggle with mental health issues. Offering a way for employees to examine themselves safely and appropriately can help discover problems before they become too serious.
There are many self-service screening tools you can direct employees towards, such as at Mental Health America. Another option would be to bring in a counselor to work with team members individually or give employees access to teletherapy. Allowing employees to learn more about their brains’ inner workings is one of the best ways to focus on mental health.
Check out Mental Health America online for a free screening tool.
6. Offer Praise
When leadership notices team members and praises their hard work, team members feel good about themselves. Furthermore, verbal praise increases involvement and focus on essential tasks. During May, encourage teammates, especially leaders, to focus on giving colleagues credit.
You can ask employees to praise one team member each day. Or, set up a Slack channel where teammates can call attention to what they appreciate about their coworkers. Team leaders can focus on a different employee each day, as well.
Check out this list of employee recognition ideas.
7. Focus on Art
Art is one of the best Mental Health Awareness Month activities. When team members create art, they release stress. Whether through painting, drawing, or clay, art allows teammates to focus on their inner creative energy.
To focus on art at work, you can have an interactive creation station at work. At this station, provide a variety of art mediums for team members to utilize. For example, you can provide canvases and paint or a collection of art supplies like glue, pipe cleaners, pom-poms, and clay. Allowing team members to be creative is a great way to reduce stress in the workplace.
If you have a remote office, then you can send art kits to each team member. You can include blank canvases, paints, markers, or coloring books. Then, create a Slack channel where people can share their creations if so inclined.
Here is a list of online group art classes.
8. Change the Dialogue
Many times, coworkers greet each other with a kind yet impersonal greeting. Phrases like, “How was your weekend?” or “How’s it going?” do not promote discussion or encourage honesty. In the spirit of mental health awareness, encourage leadership and team members alike to use more open-ended and thoughtful questions instead of defaulting to small-talk. For example, “How are you feeling today?” or “What have you been doing in your free time lately?” are questions that signal the asker cares and wants a deeper answer.
Changing habits can be difficult, and change starts from the top. Be sure to encourage team leaders and supervisors to make a point of asking real questions of employees. Creating an environment where team members feel appreciated and cared for is one of the best things to do for mental health.
9. Host a Stress Reduction Seminar
Stress is a part of everyday life. Stress triggers your body to release hormones that can lead long-term to physical and emotional illness. If left unchecked, stress can cause headaches, insomnia, irritability, and inattention. Hosting a seminar focused on reducing stress can go a long way to helping team members cope with unwanted problems. During the workshop, you can teach relaxation techniques, mediation, and breathing exercises.
One fantastic way to incorporate this event is to host a weekly seminar. To start, choose a day that works well for most employees. If you have a remote office, schedule a weekly Zoom meeting that team members can attend. Then, either have an employee present information or hire an expert to give a presentation. After the presentation, allow time for teammates to discuss what they have heard. You can also ask team members how they want to incorporate these stress-reducing techniques into their daily work routine.
10. Focus on Gratitude
When team members practice gratitude, there is usually an increase in happiness and improvement in office mood. Hopefully, focusing on gratitude will create habits that continue throughout the rest of the year.
One of the best ways to focus on thankfulness is by setting up a gratitude station. You can place a table in a common area of the office. At this table, provide blank thank you notes and journals. You can also set up a bulletin board with blank notecards so team members can write down what they are thankful for and display it.
There are also many virtual Mental Health Awareness Month ideas, as well. You can set up a Slack channel dedicated to gratefulness. On this channel, ask teammates to post something they are thankful for each day of the month. Or, you can send a journal to each employee and encourage them to write down something they are grateful for every day.
Here is a list of fun gratitude activities for adults.
11. Host a Bring Your Pet to Work Day
Pets are more than just family members who live in our house that we have to feed. Petting a dog or cat releases oxytocin in your brain. This “happy hormone” decreases stress and increases happiness and satisfaction. Allowing team members to bring their pets to work for a day will improve their mental health by releasing extra oxytocin and decreasing stress.
Of course, there need to be rules regarding this event. It is wise to strongly encourage pet owners to consider their pet’s temperament before bringing them to the office. Be sure to ask about allergies and make arrangements for those who might be uncomfortable around animals.
Here are tips for virtual bring your dog to work day.
12. Eat Healthy Food
Taking care of your physical health can increase your mental health. When team members are eating healthy and filling foods, they can focus more fully on tasks. If your budget allows, plan a weekly team meal in the office. You can either have a catered lunch or bring healthy food options for breakfast or a snack. Or, you can plan a potluck and encourage team members to bring in a healthy version of their favorite dish.
Another option to encourage healthy eating is to host a nutritionist or dietician. You can host a seminar for these professionals to discuss ways to approach healthy eating and the best ways to incorporate healthy foods into your diet. Many specialists will also provide recipes and techniques that make eating healthy simple.
13. Host a Craft Night
Crafting is a wonderful way to relieve stress. Many team members may enjoy the chance to create items to display or gift. If you have lots of crafty people on your team, you can host a weekly event and plan a different craft for each one.
Some example crafts are:
- Wreaths for a door
- Candle making
- Soap making
- Wood carving
- Bath bomb-making
You can find local experts to lead a class for many of these ideas. Or, you can ask team members who have a hobby they would be willing to teach a class. At the end of the month, teammates have learned a new skill or two that can help relieve stress.
14. Plan an Exercise Session
Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress. There are many ways to encourage physical activity. You can offer a month-long membership to a local gym. Or, consider planning a daily 15-minute yoga session after lunch. A fun way to incorporate families would be to host a family fun run. Including spouses and children will help families reduce stress at home.
15. Offer Massages
If the budget allows, bringing in a professional massage therapist can be one of the most appreciated Mental Health Awareness Month event ideas. Many masseuses have a mobile business and will bring a bed or chair and set it up at your workplace. Depending on the number of employees, consider offering this event for an entire week or one day each week throughout the month. Massage is one of the best ways to focus on self-care. Even if each team member only gets a 20- to 30-minute massage, the benefits are still there.
16. Make Mental Health Awareness Last More than a Month
While May is traditionally considered Mental Health Awareness Month, incorporating wellness ideas throughout the year is essential to creating a healthy work environment. You can create a positive environment where team members feel appreciated and want to work hard.
There are several ideas and activities you can do that are easy to implement:
- Celebrate employee milestones like anniversaries
- Encourage employees to take breaks and use their vacation time
- Recognize and praise hard work
- Regularly ask for feedback
- Create a comfortable work environment
- Promote communication
- Have regular check-ins with your team (essential in remote environments)
- Encourage time outdoors
- Plan family events throughout the year
Implementing these activities throughout the year is not very time-consuming and does not require a large budget. Team members will benefit from a work environment that focuses on mental and physical health. The company benefits because employees are healthy, happy, and willing to work hard.
Utilizing these Mental Health Awareness Month ideas is a great way to create an environment where employees thrive. Focusing on mental and physical health is essential for team members and the company. You can scale These activities and events to your company’s needs and abilities. But, team members will benefit no matter what level you implement them.
We also have a list of Pride Month ideas to try, and a list of activities for remote team stress management.
FAQ: Mental Health Awareness Month ideas
These are the frequently asked questions about Mental Health Awareness Month.
What is Mental Health Awareness Month?
You can observe Mental Health Awareness Month in May in a variety of ways. The purpose of this event is to bring awareness to those living with mental health issues. The activities are also aimed at helping all team members focus on their mental health and be aware of any issues that can hinder a happy, healthy, and productive lifestyle.
How do you celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month in the workplace?
You can celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month in the workplace in a variety of ways. For example, host a stress reduction seminar, offer a wellness gift, and encourage team members to leave work at work.
Why is celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month at work important?
Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month at work is important because millions of employees around the world struggle with a variety of mental health issues. Left unchecked, these issues can lead to serious and chronic problems. In severe cases, mental health problems can be fatal. Focusing on mental health and healing in the workplace brings awareness to those struggling and removes the stigma so often associated with these issues.