Addressing Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Healthcare Industry — in conversation with June Collison

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4 min readMar 14, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted the way many individuals live their lives. Physical and mental health issues have been intensified, especially in the world of healthcare. Part of the responsibility of caring for individuals’ health and mental wellbeing falls on the organizations they work for, and leaders must take steps to ensure their staff’s wellness.

We’re in conversation with June Collison, a values oriented, positive impact creator. Driven by solutions and highly experienced as a diversity advocate, June is a seasoned senior healthcare executive with over 25 years of experience.

June, ever since the onset of the pandemic the importance of mental wellness in the workplace has become of utmost importance. Mental health has always been crucial, but even more so since work from home has become the new norm. How can organizations keep and maintain mentally healthy employees? Why is that so important?

“I was fortunate to not have to work from home during the pandemic. I call it ‘fortunate’ for a reason — I could not see myself being locked down at home for any extended period of time. I have colleagues who have rarely their homes over the last two years, and it has definitely impacted them. At one point, I had COVID in November of 2020, and I was lucky to have had very few symptoms and a healthy recovery; however, while I may not have been physically impacted by COVID, my mental health status was definitely affected.

“I remember that the first few days of COVID were very difficult for my mental health. I felt so depressed. I distinctly remember thinking, ‘How can I be a leader in the healthcare space and come down with COVID?’ I’ve told my staff, since the beginning of the pandemic, ‘Masks up, wash your hands, social distance, and follow public health guidelines,’ which I followed (and still do), consistently. When I got COVID, it was not easy at all, and I felt like I’d abandoned my staff.

“I remember telling my boss, ‘I am so depressed. I feel like I let my team down.’ She had a conversation with me, reminding me that there was nothing I could’ve done about it. I called my physician to talk to her about it, and she reminded me that I’d be recovered by December and January and that I’d be fine. This support was dear to me, but my depression still deeply affected me. I learned firsthand that mental health is very serious and should be taken very seriously.

“Everybody processes and responds to trauma differently. I look at my staff — they are resilient and strong, but regardless of how resilient a person is, the many negative aspects of life can get to you, and the pandemic was one dangerous instance of that. The amount of death my staff saw in that time was unbelievable. We in healthcare are in the business of healing people — individuals who heal people and save lives for a living were seeing 10 to 15 deaths per day. They have never seen that kind of death before. This has a very clear and horrid effect on people’s psyche.

“We must have a robust self-care and wellbeing program to support individuals’ self-care. So, I created a wellness program in our organization. In one aspect of this initiative, I have implemented the practice of restricting meetings from two Fridays each month. Instead, on those two Fridays, leaders go around and check in on their staff. They ask, ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘How is your family doing?’ and have a personal conversation with them. It became all too common to deal with family deaths due to COVID, so opening up the conversation to help individuals express their struggles has enhanced both connection-building among employees as well as, and more importantly, the mental wellbeing of staff members.

“Another initiative I implemented in our organization is creating a wellness program for leaders first, then we are going to roll out the same to the line staff. The reasoning behind this is: if my leaders are not well themselves nor equipped to take care of their mental health, how will they be able to take care of their staff? One such program is one where leaders can come to for healing work, because we have to ensure there is an adequate space for self-care in the office.

“Prior to COVID, we have always had issues with mental health and inequities. COVID has only exacerbated these issues, bringing up all the flaws that already existed. It was quite a blessing and a curse, as it has caused pain and trauma en-masse; however, it did provide an opportunity for these underlying issues to rise into the mainstream discussion of public health, society, and organizational management. For example: when evaluating the demographics of who was affected by COVID, it is all too clear that Black and brown individuals were disproportionally affected as a result of their socioeconomic status and subsequent lack of healthcare access. COVID shined a light on this issue.

“I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to be part of a solution to such widespread issues. Mental health is a serious issue, and all organizations must be concerned with the well-being of their employees.”

Thanks for sharing, June.

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