February 2, 2024

Fighting the Mental Health Crisis

Fighting the Mental Health Crisis

The Muppet Elmo just sparked an unexpected national conversation about mental health when his social media handlers made a seemingly innocuous post “Elmo is just checking in. How is everybody doing?”

The tweet, which appeared on X, went viral, garnering more than 137,000 views. Although Elmo is a Muppet, many people responded to this inquiry with heartfelt posts like “Elmo, I’ve got to level with you baby, we are fighting for our lives” and “Elmo, each day the abyss we stare into grows in unique horror…”

I take everything I see on social media with a grain of salt, but experts are taking the sentiments seriously. Americans are under extraordinary pressure, with basic necessities costing more than many people can manage. Although some say inflation is leveling off, housing affordability is at a 39-year-low, grocery prices were up 11.8% in December over the same month last year, and healthcare costs are sky-high. That’s not to mention many people still haven’t recovered from the isolation and loneliness of the pandemic. Throw in challenges such as deadlines, family stress, a political campaign season heating up, and it’s hard for many to bear.

If there was one benefit of the pandemic, it is that talking about mental health has finally lost its stigma, and people are realizing it is just as important as physical health, if not more important. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 90% of Americans believe there is a mental health crisis going on, and nearly 50 million Americans are experiencing mental illness, such as anxiety and depression.

I firmly believe employers like Marcum have a role to play in supporting the people who work for us. If someone on our team is struggling emotionally, we have invested in many resources to help them.

That starts with prevention. Given how much time most of us must spend on devices today, we offer our team access to the Wise@Work App, which has hundreds of mindfulness practices designed to build focus, enhance productivity, improve self-awareness, and deepen connections within a team. The app even offers daily sessions someone can customize to their mood. Every first and third Monday, we also offer 15-minute virtual chair yoga and meditation classes, sending all of our associates a calendar invite through Outlook.

In May, we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month. Associates receive a “Mental Health Mondays” weekly newsletter on ways to improve their mental health and links to helpful resources. During the month of May, we also have a Wise@Work Mental Fitness Challenge, in which associates are encouraged to practice mindfulness for each day through the app.

But sometimes, more help is needed. To that end, every Marcum LLP associate is enrolled in our Employee Assistance Program with ComPsych. They can participate in up to six free sessions per issue, per year, and if they want to continue treatment with a specific provider, the claims can be billed through their health insurance.

Marcum also covers the cost of AbleTo, a self-paced digital well-being program available for free to UMR Medical members. It allows team members to work with a compassionate coach who focuses on understanding their unique needs and goals. AbleTo offers a self-paced structured program grounded in cognitive behavioral therapy delivered through eight modules, with tools and techniques that build on the prior week.

Ultimately, we are all connected, and if one member of our team is hurting or feeling isolated, we all hurt. I don’t want anyone who works at Marcum to cope with mental health challenges alone, and hope that every associate will make the most of our resources and take the time to let colleagues know they care, not just when they’re struggling but every day. A few kind words or listening with focused attention can go a long way—which Elmo is probably already tweeting about.