Mental Health, Recovery, and Suicide Prevention panel resonates with employees 

More than 50 employees gathered on Sept. 25 in the Administration Building Training Room for a powerful panel conversation about workplace mental health, held in recognition of September National Recovery Month and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  

Panelists included Whitney Abrams, Chief People Officer; Heather Steffensen with the Employee Assistance Program; Brandon Banks with Metro Transit Department; Skyler Bridges with the Department of Assessments; and Suzette Dickerson, Council 2 business representative. Sarah Wilhelm from Public Health-Seattle & King County moderated the panel for a standing-room only audience and Skype participants.  

Recognizing that employees spend so many of their waking hours at work, the panelists explored aspects of what it means to bring one’s whole self to the workplace. They shared perspectives on such issues as supporting colleagues who are experiencing challenging times in their lives, strategies for self-care and healing, and the important role of supervisors in creating a safe, supportive environment that helps reduce day-to-day stress.   

Whitney Abrams emphasized that our True North – Making King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive – is a vision that we hold for employees and it’s where we need to start. She emphasized that creating a culture that is welcoming, racially just, and respects all people are values that we need to live out here at work and in how we support our staff.  

“My aim is to learn from you about what you need, and explore how we can help reduce the stigma and isolation around mental health” she said. “Slowing down and taking the time for connecting on a human level really matters.” 

Members of the audience engaged with questions and reflections of their own, with many noting the importance of regular training and coaching for supervisors at all levels so that they can cultivate more sensitivity to mental well-being in working with their staff. Modeling the way, staying curious, building authentic relationships, being mindful of the language we use, and checking back in were raised as ways that to help one another grow and create more connections.  

At the end of the session, Kelli Nomura, Director of King County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Division in the Department of Community and Human Services, expressed her appreciation for the open sharing that occurred in the room.  

“What I’ve heard today is we are not alone, and there are ways we can work together to make our workplace safer and more supportive. Recovery can and does happen,” she said. 

For assistance with mental health or substance use concerns, contact the King County Making Life Easier Program anytime at 1-888-874-7290, or this view this Mental Health Benefits and Resources sheet. For concerns about workplace dynamics, employees are encouraged to consult with their department HR Manager or the Department of Human Resources Employee Assistance Program. 

Pictured: From left to right, Sarah Wilhelm with Public Health-Seattle & King, Heather Steffensen with the Employee Assistance Program, Skyler Bridges with the Department of Assessments, Whitney Abrams, Chief People Officer, Brandon Banks with the Department of Metro Transit, Suzette Dickerson, Council 2 business representative, and Shawna Johnson with King County Balanced You.