May is a time when we hear a lot about mental health. It’s Mental Health Awareness month, after all. But the discussion about mental health and its importance, especially in the workplace, is a conversation we should be having all year long. As organizations start to recognize how essential employee well-being is, many leaders are asking themselves, “What can I do to help make mental health a priority in my company?” To answer that question, among others, we sat down and talked with Deloitte’s Chief Mental Health Officer Deborah Miscoll.
Thrive Global: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you make your way to becoming the Chief Mental Health Officer at Deloitte?
Deborah Miscoll: I’m a native, straight-talking Texan, with a passion for high school football. I started my career in psychology over 30 years ago, initially working in the clinical forensic sub-specialty in the justice system and then later applying those skills to an organizational setting by advising businesses on how to effectively address mental health issues in the workplace. Even though the settings are very different, understanding the complexities involving risk and law uniquely positioned me for this career transition and how best to advise, develop and deploy interventions within this setting; best practices in terms of approaches to treatment; and prevention strategies carried over as well.
I started as a management consultant at Deloitte, helping clients address the complexities that arise at the intersection of business and psychology, and then moved my focus to supporting and enhancing the psychological health of Deloitte’s diverse workforce.
TG: Why is it important to have to focus on psychological health at work? What does the Chief Mental Health Officer do to advance mental health in the workplace?
DM: Psychological health is an imperative that businesses should focus on and prioritize. Done thoughtfully, organizations can design and deliver solutions to help their professionals perform and thrive in the workplace. Organizations that invest in the psychological health of their employees prepare their workforce for strong outcomes both personally and professionally, and help ensure strong engagement, productivity, and employee satisfaction.
The Chief Mental Health Officer (CMHO) plays an important role in an organization, not only by creating resources and programs that address those complex issues that can emerge at work, but they also can create opportunities for the workforce to learn how to protect their experiences across the entire spectrum of psychological health. The CMHO helps shape solutions and services that fit the unique needs of an organization and its people.
Additionally, they elevate and promote more discussion around psychological health at work to help advance and guide psychological health approaches in the workplace. It simply becomes part of business as usual and an integral part of an organization’s strategy.
TG: How does Deloitte support its people to thrive mentally? And how can other organizations support the psychological health of their people?
DM: At Deloitte, we care about our people and their families, so we make it a priority to provide opportunities for them to thrive mentally, physically, and financially. We do this by investing in robust reward, recognition, and well-being programs, DEI, human potential, and purpose initiatives. Our commitment to psychological health includes the creation of the CMHO role, our team of psychologists and experts, and focusing on the continuum of the psychological experience to help support and connect our people to the solutions and services they need. We use a concierge-style support that includes providing knowledge and expertise related to psychological treatment, access to educational experiences, and helping employees navigate their psychological health journey.
Using science and data, we also create tools and learning opportunities to help our people better understand psychological health and what they can do to proactively protect it. Psychological health is a spectrum from challenged to thriving, and throughout the life journey, people may move back and forth across that spectrum. That’s why we provide a full suite of services and tools for our people to use, that meet their needs no matter where they are on the psychological spectrum of experience. I think it’s important to consider rethinking how they approach these concepts so organizations can move the needle, and truly show how the science of psychology can benefit individuals. Organizations should create a model that covers the full spectrum of psychological experience, from how best to maintain high performance motivation to how best to cope with depression. Using this approach normalizes psychological health, elevates relatability to everyone, and encourages access no matter where they are on that spectrum.
TG: What has the reception been to Deloitte’s commitment to mental health?
DM: The reception has been positive and utilization unprecedented. We’ve been able to focus on helping our people move from challenged to thriving, which is incredibly rewarding and supports Deloitte’s continued success as an organization. Utilization of our offerings continues to grow, and our people report high satisfaction with the services we offer. I’m proud to say that I often hear the question: “What did we ever do without you?”
TG: What are three things organizations can do to better support their employees’ psychological health?
- Don’t underestimate the need for psychological health support in the workplace. It’s clear that people want this support from their organizations. It not only helps your people, but it also has many business benefits as well.
- Many traditional models of mental health support in the workplace fall short. If you want to address the psychological needs of your people, adopt a “psychologically informed” leader approach, build in the right solutions to attend to both business and employee needs, and overcome the gaps and barriers that currently exist.
- While building awareness around psychological health is important in the workplace, leaders should create real solutions and support, beyond tips and tricks, if they truly want to commit to improving the psychological health of their people.