May 31, 2022

Gov. Whitmer Encourages Employers to Implement Strategies to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

New report details strategies to improve employee wellbeing and reduce workplace stressors. Dr. Debra Pinals is quoted. 

This press release was originally posted to 

LANSING, Mich. – To further efforts to support mental health and wellbeing for more Michiganders, Governor Gretchen Whitmer tasked the Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) with establishing a dedicated workgroup to focus on mental health, trauma, and resiliency in the workplace. The workgroup has released their findings and key strategies for employers to help build supportive workplaces by integrating employee mental health strategies that establish healthier workplaces, enhance employee wellbeing and promote resilient companies

This work builds on Governor Whitmer’s recently released mental health proposals that will help Michiganders get the comprehensive care they need, so that our state can attract and retain more mental health professionals, open more appointments and create good-paying jobs.

“Every person in Michigan should have access to the quality, affordable mental and physical care they need,” said Governor Whitmer. “By giving Michiganders the comprehensive care they deserve, and by making investments in mental health strategies in the workplace, we can build a stronger Michigan with a resilient workforce. The workgroup recommendations are another step closer to helping more Michiganders have access to mental health care.” 

LEO worked closely with employers, workers and professionals to discuss how workplaces can implement supportive and empowering strategies, while also highlighting organizational opportunities for better workplace environments. 

The report details the findings of the workgroup and key strategies for employers to help build supportive workplaces by integrating employee mental health strategies that establish healthier workplaces, enhance employee wellbeing and promote resilient companies.

“While we are incredibly proud of the work that has been done to come up with these proposals to improve mental health in the workplace, we realize there is still a lot of work to be done in order to develop and implement these and other workplace mental health strategies,” said LEO Deputy Director of Labor Sean Egan. “We hope employees and employers across the state will join us in reviewing the report findings and recommendations and build on mental health strategies that will have a great, positive impact on employee wellbeing in addition to protecting the employer’s bottom line and our communities.”

Investing in mental health and safety is critical to build strong workplaces, a strong workforce and strong communities. It is also imperative for employers to focus on mental health and safety for the overall wellbeing of their employees.

To assist employers, the workgroup recommended five steps to help organizations focus on overall wellbeing, incorporate trauma informed strategies, and reduce workplace stressors that can lead to crisis:

  • Assess Your Workplace and Culture
  • Consider Workplace Policies, Practices and Procedures
  • Recommit to Employee Assistance Programs 
  • Consider adding or expanding Employee Resource Groups 
  • Consider adding mental health to joint employer/employee safety committees

In addition, the workgroup made recommendations for the State to consider in supporting mental health practices in the workplace:

  • Make the State of Michigan, as an employer, a model of workplace mental health and safety for other businesses.
  • Give preference for businesses incorporating employee mental health improvement strategies through the State’s procurement or grant processes.  
  • Offer financial support from the State for businesses to implement employee mental health improvement strategies. 
  • Develop a resource hub that allows various groups to access plans, policies and other information that is being used by employers in Michigan. 
  • Continue workgroup efforts that identify specific workplace challenges and opportunities for specific industries (e.g., healthcare, manufacturing, education, service workers, etc.).
  • Develop Michigan-specific data tools for tracking progress on improving workplace mental health and safety.
  • Develop a State recognition or “pledge” concept to encourage employers to integrate mental health strategies into their workplace. 
  • Identify incentives for recruitment and retention and work to alleviate potential shortages of mental health services providers in the community. 
  • Provide opportunities for learning about successful strategies and programs from across the country and provide peer-sharing and learning opportunities in the state of Michigan.

View the full report from the Mental Health Workgroup.

“Many of us have been in workplaces where the overall attention to employee mental health has been great in some places and poor in others, and we’ve seen the positive impact strong mental health can have on employee satisfaction, work productivity and the company as a whole,” said Debra A. Pinals, M.D., Medical Director for Behavioral Health and Forensic Programs, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and clinical professor of psychiatry at University of Michigan. “Our goal in this work with LEO is to help employers create a workplace where the mental health is strong and employees enjoy coming into work every day, which creates an environment that is beneficial to employees and employers alike.”

“Careers in the professional trades are vital to Michigan’s economic future and we are committed to ensuring those entering these high-demand fields are equipped with the physical and mental health support they need to succeed,” said DeShon Leek, Southeast Representative, Michigan Building Trades.

To learn more about the details of the report, the workgroup encourages employees and employers to join them for a virtual meeting on Wednesday, June 8 at 2:30 p.m. – join the virtual meeting here