COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down. The virus posed new challenges not only to our physical health, but our social, emotional and mental health, as well. The lasting impact of the pandemic is causing many Iowans to feel increased anxiety, stress and feelings of isolation – and for the 1 in 5 people who already live with a mental illness, COVID-19 could be causing symptoms to compound. 

Workplaces have an important role to play in helping employees take care of their mental health, especially during this time of uncertainty. Mental health affects all aspects of your employees’ lives, including the time they spend working, which can affect their productivity, absenteeism, creativity and professional relationships. 

The greatest barrier for those in need of mental health services is stigma. Make It OK is a community campaign to reduce stigma by starting conversations and increasing understanding about mental illness. Workplaces are invited to be partners in Make It OK efforts by pledging to eliminate stigma in their organization and cultivate an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health at work. 

Consider this: If a colleague opened up to you about their mental illness, would you know what to say? Do you have a general understanding of the most common mental illnesses? Do you know how to support colleagues dealing with mental illness? 

To get started on eliminating stigma within your organization, register your workplace on the Make It OK website. Upon registration, employers will receive the Make It OK: Employer Toolkit, a digital resource that includes a step-by-step guide to implement Make It OK within your organization and includes links to additional resources. 

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing mental health in the workplace. The Make It OK: Employer Toolkit will help you create an action plan and measurement tools to suit the needs of your unique organization. Eliminating the stigma is a necessary first step in creating a more supportive workplace culture, whether your employees have a diagnosed mental illness or are experiencing situational stress or anxiety due to COVID-19.

The mental health impacts from COVID-19 are not going away anytime soon. Now is the time to invest in policy, system and environmental changes in your workplace that will support your employees’ mental health for the long haul. Make It OK is one tool that can help your organization get started in that process. 

Since the toolkit was launched in January, more than 162 Iowa workplaces have registered and started taking steps to Make It OK in their organization. Please join us in our statewide efforts to break down the stigma around mental illness and help our colleagues access the resources and treatment they deserve.

Together, we can Make It OK.

Make It OK in Iowa is sponsored in Central Iowa by Delta Dental of Iowa, HealthPartners UnityPoint Health, MercyOne Des Moines, Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, Polk County Board of Supervisors and United Way of Central Iowa. To learn more about Make It OK or to get your workplace involved, visit MakeItOK.org/Iowa.