Dec 12, 2023
By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
In mainstream culture, when someone suffers from a physical illness, friends and family and co-workers are on their doorstep with casseroles and cards. But when someone suffers from a mental health crisis, few casseroles or solutions are on hand.
The complexities of mental health in the workplace, at home, and in schools is a tough topic that needs to be addressed in our Texoma Health Foundation (THF) communities. Our counties on the whole are among the highest for suicide rates in the state of Texas. A Gallup Poll conducted in one county that THF serves found that 2 out of 3 people felt they didn’t have hope or purpose.
For over a decade, THF has made mental health a priority. We launched the “Okay to Say” campaign to encourage people to share their mental struggles. Work in this area also takes place in the community among adults and youth through grant making, evidence-based trainings, and school visits.
But we found it’s hard to meet with busy parents for yet another meeting at their child’s school. That challenge sparked a new concept that snowballed into a project currently being piloted throughout our service areas.
In the summer of 2023, THF created Mindwell Texoma, a revolutionary program designed to guide organizations and businesses with simple action steps they can take to address the wellbeing of their team members. Mindwell is a stone tossed into the vast lake of mental health. The ripples it sets in motion impact the team members, their children, their neighbors, and ultimately, their community.
The pilot organizations involved in Mindwell are as diverse and varied as the issues addressed through the program: a trucking company and schools; churches and a farm-to-table restaurant; a bank, an oil company, nonprofits, and more.
The key to Mindwell is keeping the action steps for businesses simple and adaptable. THF created E-Kits that are distributed to the pilot organizations every 8 weeks. Team leaders have that time to adapt and disperse the material.
It might be sending a text message to their truck drivers. Some leaders prefer email, or team meetings. It may be delegating someone to do the print out materials and distribute them.
Each E-Kit is based on a pillar. It might be emotional brain training, where staff learns to gauge their emotional state on a scale of 1-5. Being able to communicate that to team members who understand what the numbers mean and how they can help the person is a huge step toward a healthy workplace. The reverse is true for when employees return home and are able to work through issues with family.
THF has experienced the positive impact of Mindwell among its own team members, including CEO Michelle Lemming.
“If I walk into the THF offices and say I’m a 4, my team all know what that means,” Michelle says. “They’ve also learned how to help me navigate that and get me to a better place - and I do the same. It’s this beautiful picture of how powerful the workplace can be, and how that ripple effect can happen. When I am better at work mentally, I’ll come home and be a better mom and a better wife. It can also impact my neighbors because I took time to wave and say, ‘hi.’ It creates this ability to create change in really simple ways.”
Michelle envisions a future where every organization in the counties that THF serves is part of Mindwell Texoma.
“It’s such a huge need, and it’s also an incredible opportunity to shift our culture,” Michelle says. “Instead of having some of the highest depression and suicide rates, we would be recognized as a thriving community. We would see those statistics change. ”