By: Tammy Pitts, Chief Communications Officer, MNA
In the fast-paced world of nonprofits, where the mission is at the forefront of every endeavor, it is crucial that we take a moment to talk about the significance of mental health. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it’s a great opportunity to pause and reflect on the significance of mental well-being and its profound impact on the sector. While nonprofits are dedicated to helping others, it is equally essential for them to prioritize mental health awareness and support for their staff.
Support Staff by Recognizing the Toll of Nonprofit Work
The nature of our work is intense and can be mentally and emotionally draining. Our passion to make a difference within our communities often leads to long hours, extremely high-stress levels, and emotional challenges. So, it is critical for nonprofit leaders to recognize the impact that stress can have on staff and create an environment that values self-care and acknowledges the importance of mental well-being. For example, here at Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA), we have several mental health days that are booked on staff calendars as “Days of Joy” for staff to focus on activities that bring them happiness and rejuvenation outside of work. These days of joy are often scheduled to coincide with the weekend, so workers can enjoy a long weekend to spend time with their families, work on their hobbies, or do any other thing that brings them happiness outside of the office. This acknowledgment not only supports the mental health and well-being of our staff, but it enhances overall job satisfaction and productivity.
In our fast-paced and demanding sector, rest often takes a back seat to everything else. We are in a ‘go, go, go’ mentality. But rest isn’t a luxury. Prioritizing rest is a necessity for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It has a direct impact on our cognitive function including our ability to solve problems and make sound decisions. Research shows that taking breaks from work and allowing our mind and body to rest, enhances focus, creativity, and productivity. Earlier this year, MNA’s President and CEO, Kelley Kuhn, made the decision to prioritize rest for MNA staffers by implementing a paid summer and winter break for all staff. Beginning this year on July 1st, MNA will close for seven days so that staff can take a summer break to rest and recharge. Moreover, we have implemented a paid winter break in December, where MNA will close before the Christmas holiday so that staff can enjoy the holidays and spend time with their families before returning to work after the new year refreshed and reenergized. By scheduling downtime, providing generous paid time off, and honoring the staff’s request for rest, we have created space for personal fulfillment, quality time with family and friends, and the opportunity to pursue other activities outside of work. Additionally, a well-balanced life allows us to bring our best selves to both our personal and professional lives.
Mental Health Advocacy
Nonprofits have the power to drive change not only within their own organizations but across the entire sector. By advocating for mental health awareness and implementing policies that support mental well-being within their organizations, nonprofits are contributing to the sector-wide shift toward prioritizing mental health. Collaboration with other organizations, sharing best practices, and engaging in discussions around mental health can amplify the collective voice for change. One example of an organization that is prioritizing mental health and rest is CultureSource. MNA consulted with Executive Director, Omari Rush, and his team last year and their insights influenced the implementation of MNA’s new paid summer and winter break policies.
As we observe Mental Health Awareness Month, it is vital that we unite and work together to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health within the sector, making it a top priority. Together, let us prioritize the well-being of our staffers and create a healthier sector. By doing so, we create a profound impact in our communities and cultivate a positive and supportive environment for both those we serve and those we work alongside.
Additional Resources from CultureSource:
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