From the Practice Directorate

Companies Are Honored for Psychologically Healthy Workplace Practices

Companies Are Honored for Psychologically Healthy Workplace Practices

The American Psychological Association (APA) recognized five of the nation’s top companies for their admirable business practices following the September 11 terrorist attacks at this year’s Institute for Health and Productivity Management’s (IHPM) Conference.

Bank One Corporation, The Dow Chemical Company, Ford Motor Company working together with the United Auto Workers, Intel Corporation, and Pitney Bowes received Resilient Workplace Honors for their dedication to supporting and building resilience in their employees following the terrorist attacks, and their ongoing commitment to workplace health and well-being.

“These companies serve as an inspiration and provide a model for their efforts to maintain a psychologically healthy workplace under extremely difficult circumstances,” says Russ Newman, PhD, JD, the APA’s executive director for professional practice. “Let’s not forget, the terrorist attacks took an economic toll as well, but these companies made an investment in their most valuable asset – their work force.”

Each of the companies demonstrated support for their employees following 9/11 with policies, procedures and practices put in place to help their employees build resilience. These initiatives included continuous communications from company leadership, and informing employees of free mental health resources available to them. Through company Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) made available at company sites nationwide as well as select international sites, many employees received crisis intervention counseling immediately following the attacks. These companies also utilized their Intranet websites to provide employees with resources, from dealing with grief to how to talk about terrorism with family members, particularly children.

Beyond the September 11 attacks, the companies honored have also demonstrated a commitment to ongoing, supportive services for their employees as part of their long-term efforts to build employee resilience. These programs comprise work-life initiatives that offer programs and services to help employees manage their work and personal lives more effectively. Services may include flexible work arrangements, child and elder care, mental health resources, stress management programs, and other support services.

APA honored the companies during IHPM’s Third Annual Health and Productivity Management Awards on Thursday, September 26, 2002, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“A healthy, resilient work force lies at the heart of productive and stable business performance,” said IHPM President Sean Sullivan. “These companies’ efforts to safeguard employee physical and psychological health emphasize the value of employee health as a sound investment in corporate success.”

The Resilient Workplace Honors program builds on the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award program, established in 1999, providing awards to businesses and organizations at the state level for business practices that foster a healthy work environment for employees. The annual program, implemented by 27 state psychological associations, highlights businesses and organizations from a variety of categories, and the judging process evaluates applicants on four criteria: employee involvement, family support, employee growth and development, and health and safety.

“These awards were established to bring attention to what’s right with America’s workplaces,” says Lisa Osborn, PsyD, APA’s director of the award program. “Many companies are worthy of this recognition. Holding them up as an example will show more employers the tangible benefits of providing psychologically healthy workplaces.”

Numerous studies have shown that workplace stress also has a very real impact on corporate healthcare cost increases, which are accelerating for the fourth year in a row with no slowdown in sight, according to a 2001 report by Watson & Wyatt. There was a 10.3% increase overall in 2001 in corporate healthcare costs.

A report from the Journal of Occupational Health and Medicine shows that healthcare expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.

APA and Discovery Health Channel Hold Community Forum to Help Build Resilience

As the nation commemorated the one-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, several hundred people gathered in Bethesda for a special community forum about resilience and bouncing back from adversity. The event featured a special screening of Aftermath: The Road to Resilience, a documentary co-produced by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Discovery Health Channel.

The screening and forum were held in cooperation with the Mental Health Association of Montgomery County (MHAMC), the Maryland Psychological Association, and Comcast. The forum discussion focused on the meaning of resilience and how people can learn to build resilience to help manage difficult situations, develop ways to deal with stress and life challenges.

“It is important to understand that resilience isn’t a trait that’s inherited or we are born with. Resilience is a set of behaviors and actions that can be learned,” said Russ Newman, PhD, JD, executive director for professional practice, APA and forum panelist.

“There are many programs reliving the events of September 11, our documentary provides a window to the recovery, healing and new directions an individual’s life undertakes when confronted with adversity,” said Bob Reid, general manager and senior vice president of the Discovery Health Channel and forum panelist.

In addition to Dr. Newman and Mr. Reid, discussion panelists included Mary Alvord, PhD, a practicing clinical psychologist in Montgomery County with experience working on resilience in children. Dr. Alvord also worked with children who lost their parents in the Pentagon attack on September 11. Also on the panel, was Christine Fisher, a Montgomery County resident who lost her husband in the September 11 attack on the Pentagon. Ms. Fisher talked about strategies that helped her deal with hardship and develop resilience over the last year. The discussion was moderated by Val Marmillion, president of Pacific Visions Communications.

“There is an incredible need to educate individuals about resilience and encourage them to share their feelings in an effort to find the strength to cope, so a forum such as this is an important community response,” said Sharon E. Friedman, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Montgomery County. “The amazing strength of the human spirit reflected in this film helps with the myriad of mental health implications that can develop after tragic events such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

This special community screening and forum is part of APA’s nationwide public education campaign, “The Road to Resilience.” The campaign was developed to provide people with information and steps to help them build resilience as a way to manage difficult situations, deal with stress and bounce back from adversity. The campaign consists of several components including the documentary and free educational material accessible through websites and a toll free number, as well as grassroots activities such as forums and lectures provided by psychologists in communities throughout the United States, its territories and Canada.

The concept for this public outreach project came as a result of focus group discussions held shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Participants in Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Baltimore revealed a strong interest in learning what makes a person resilient and how to build resilience. In addition, a survey commissioned by APA and The Infinite Mind public radio series in January/February 2002 found that a significant number of Americans were still feeling the mental health effects of the terrorist attacks and that large majorities said they were reexamining their priorities in life.

In addition to the documentary and grassroots outreach activities, APA and Discovery Health have also co-produced a brochure, “The Road to Resilience,” that addresses some of the signs of resilience and provides steps toward building resilience, as well as a description of changes that may accompany an individual’s journey toward building resilience. The brochure is free and can be obtained by calling toll-free 1-800-964-2000 or visiting the APA Help Center.