Mental Health America in Sheboygan County Interview: Mental Health in the Workplace & Workplace Wellness 360° Program

Recently, we were able to talk to Brianna Heusterberg, Director of Strategic Planning for Mental Health America, about the importance of mental health in the workplace.
April 5, 2021 | Business
By: Dana B
Dana came to Acuity in 2016 as a workers' compensation adjuster, where she focused on handling minor to catastrophic claims in multiple jurisdictions. She also has a background in the services industry, with experience in project management and cosmetology. She graduated with a degree in community engagement and education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and serves on the Board of Directors of Mental Health America in Sheboygan County. Outside of work and volunteering, Dana loves spending time with her daughters, cooking, and practicing yoga.

Author of Services & Retail Focus

Recently, we were able to talk to Brianna Heusterberg, Director of Strategic Planning for Mental Health America, about the importance of mental health in the workplace.


What does research show about the workplace effect on mental health? 

Mental Health America recently released its annual State of Mental Health in America Report, which states that 19% of people in the U.S. (47.1 million) are currently living with a mental health condition, a 1.5 million increase over last year’s report. And as the pandemic persists, we are seeing the highest levels of anxiety and depression reported since the pandemic hit in March 2020. This is a troubling trend that is being fueled by loneliness and isolation. 


So, how does this relate to the workplace? Well, most adults spend nearly 2,000 hours at work every year—about one third of our wake time is spent at our workplace. And with 63% of Americans participating in the U.S. labor force, it only makes sense that our work environment has a huge impact on how engaged, happy, and productive we feel. The workplace can be a key location for activities designed to improve well-being among adults. Workplace wellness programs can identify those at risk and connect them to resources and put in place supports to help people reduce and manage stress. By addressing mental health issues in the workplace, employers can reduce health care costs for their businesses and employees.


Mental Health America’s new Mind the Workplace 2021 Report provides an opportunity to better understand the mental health challenges that employees within the United States are currently experiencing. Data in the report comes from the Work Health Survey, which measured the perceptions of employees across 17 industries in the United States. Survey questions measured financial insecurity, burnout, supervisor support, workplace stress, and mental illness. Some major takeaways from the report:


  • 83% of employees are experiencing signs of burnout.
  • Workplace stress is severely impacting employees' mental health. 9 out of 10 employees feel that their workplace stress affects their mental health. Two-thirds of these employees also report not receiving the support they need to manage their stress.
  • Talking to a supervisor to change stressful things about work was most strongly correlated with the healthiest overall workplace health scores, yet 3 in 5 employees feel that their employer does not provide a safe environment for employees who live with mental illness. 
  • Over half of respondents reported that they are actively looking for a new position.


When looking at these outcomes, it is hard to feel the weight of these struggles—the same struggles that may even be taking place in own workplace. The highlighted outcomes solely express the toll mental illness can take on an employee. They do not, however, express the impact mental and emotional health can have on an organization as a whole.


The Center for Prevention and Health states that mental illness and substance abuse issues cost employers between $75 and $115 billion each year through employee absenteeism, reduced productivity, increased health care costs, and more. And while we know that a healthy workplace isn’t the perfect answer or the cure-all, employers can take the steps necessary to build a mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy workplace so employers stay as healthy as possible. 


How can organizations help support the mental health of their employees?

In today’s climate, mental health has become one of the biggest challenges for employees and employers to manage, especially with the continuously evolving work dynamic. Organizations are realizing that they must address all aspects of employee health, including mental health, to avoid a decline in productivity and prevent work burnout. 


From a positive perspective, the pandemic has amplified conversations around mental health that were not necessarily in the spotlight before. An article out of the Global Business Collaboration for Better Workplace Mental Health quoted Punit Renjen, CEO of Deloitte, who said, “The pandemic has cast a spotlight on the need to address mental health in the workplace…as business leaders, we have a responsibility to break down the stigma associated with mental health issues like stress and anxiety to ensure everyone can thrive at work.” Renjen’s statement could not be closer to the truth. And as the tide begins to turn and mental health programs become more common in the workplace, organizations need to ensure they are approaching workplace mental health thoughtfully and methodically.


So, how can businesses play a key role in employee mental health?

First, MHA Sheboygan strongly believes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness as every experience and every organization is different. Everyone has unique needs that require different kinds of help. When thinking about making wellness, especially with a focus on mental health, ingrained in your workplace culture, businesses must consider multifaceted approaches that can be tailored to specific needs. Just as physical wellness programs vary for different body types, activity levels, and overall health, mental health programs require the same flexibility.


While many of the mental health statistics that are coming out remain staggering, it is important to remember that there is hope. There is hope because so much of what is contributing to employee stress can be addressed in the following ways:


  • Gather all leadership, management, and human resources personnel to review the mental health policies and procedures they have in place. By implementing policies and practices that support employee well-being, employers can achieve the distinct but complementary goals of both employees and the organization.
  • Help to lower stigma by encouraging all who are employed at their location to talk about their mental health.
  • Build supports for both in-person, hybrid, and fully remote workforces.
  • Offer adequate health insurance that includes mental health benefits. If this is not possible, consider off-setting by looking at increasing other less formal benefits.
  • Boost workplace mental health programs that are open to all employees.
  • Provide information and resources about how to best manage stress and maintain mental health.
  • Encompass a workplace culture that is flexible/adaptable and values/rewards openness about mental health.


These are just a few ideas that companies can consider to begin their journey of becoming a mentally healthy workplace. You can reach out to MHA Sheboygan’s Executive Director, Julie Preder, to learn more about their comprehensive Workplace Wellness 360° program.


In the end, no matter where employers and company leaders and management feel they are in bringing mental health and wellness to their place of business, when it comes to the mental health culture in their workplace, it is important to act now—not only for the employees who are currently struggling or for those who could struggle in the future, but also for the company itself. 


What tips do you suggest for creating a mentally healthier workplace?

As we navigate various transitions over the coming months and years, employers are likely to see employees struggle with anxiety, depression, burnout, and trauma. Those mental health experiences will differ according to race, economic opportunity, job type, parenting and caregiving responsibilities, and many other variables. So, what can managers and leaders do to support people as they face these challenges and stressors?


Employers need to recognize that good mental health doesn’t just mean that someone is living without a diagnosis; mental health is a spectrum and there is no “one size fits all” on what mental wellness may mean for an individual. In the workplace, good mental health represents an employee’s ability to be a fulfilled and resilient member of the team. The resources included in MHA’s Work Health Survey, the Bell Seal for Workplace Mental HealthMHA’s online screening & assessment tools, and MHA Sheboygan’s Workplace Wellness 360° program demonstrate that workplace mental health actions are not designed solely for those experiencing mental health challenges, but for the entire employee population. Below are a few things that leadership and employees can begin doing now to start the journey of creating a mentally healthy workplace for all.


Leadership & Management

Leaders, managers, and HR personnel have the capacity to create an oasis of well-being for their team, no matter what is occurring within the organization. This group helps the company foster a culture of wellness, thus allowing employees to come to work as their full emotional selves.


Build a culture of connection:

  • Schedule consistent check-ins with your team.
  • Be open, vulnerable, and a role model for good mental health practices (healthy stress management, such as taking breaks, using paid time off, etc.).
  • Allow people to come to work as their full emotional selves.


Flexible & supportive workplace:

  • Normalize wellness efforts.
  • Be enthusiastic, offer incentives, and reward achieved goals.
  • Promote work/life balance.


Share resources & events:

  • Know resources and partner with organizations than can help.
  • Start wellness campaign and host or support events with common goal to drive connections.



Employees can drive the shift of their workplace culture by utilizing benefits and programming that are given through their workplace, becoming an ambassador to reduce stigma, and setting personal goals to increase their own personal wellness.


Participate in: 

  • Employer-sponsored programs and activities.
  • Activities that promote stress management and relaxation.
  • Volunteer (practice kindness and generosity).


Serve as a dedicated wellness champion: 

  • Become a workplace ambassador; share personal experiences with others to help reduce stigma.
  • Utilize EAP/health benefits.
  • Support coworkers and other peers; encourage others to seek help.


Set wellness goals:

  • Healthy eating
  • Movement and exercise
  • Average 8 hours sleep each night
  • Mindfulness/meditation, yoga, tai chi
  • Set intentions and practice gratitude
  • Maintain a healthy work/life balance (take your vacation/PTO) 


What is Workplace Wellness 360°:

The team at MHA Sheboygan recognizes how difficult it can be for employers to know how best to implement mental health and wellness programming, from looking at what policies and procedures need to be implemented to exploring evidence-based research regarding comprehensive wellness programs. That is why MHA Sheboygan created their Workplace Wellness 360° Program (WW360°). WW360° is an innovative series centered around mental wellness, developed to educate participants with the skills needed to be productive, balanced, and less-stressed, using evidence-based practices for the mind, body, and heart. By bringing WW360° to your business, employers ensure that they are creating a workplace culture that promotes happiness, mental health, and overall well-being for all.


WW360° contains a combination of informational trainings and exercises to educate participants on the broad scope of mental wellness. Participants begin the program by looking at their mental health with a similar lens as they do their physical health, while exploring mental illness and stigma. WW360° also helps acknowledge the gravity of suicide in our community, state, and nation with ways we may help those who may be suffering. The importance of self-care and overall wellness is also included in the WW360° program. Offerings and seminars are customized to fit the unique needs of the employees within an organization.


Also, because WW360° is a web-based program (that has the opportunity, when safe, to provide direct service when needed), it can be utilized and implemented by companies across the United States. MHA Sheboygan wholeheartedly believes they need to meet people where they are. The team recognizes that many Americans are feeling technology fatigue or “Zoom burnout,” that taking an hour in the middle of a workday for many employers/employees is simply not an option, or that some individuals or organizations don’t know where to begin to take those first steps toward wellness. WW360° was designed keeping all these work environments and extra challenges in mind.


What benefits can an organization expect from the implementation of Workplace Wellness 360°?

The potential benefits of implementing wellness programming, such as WW360°, at your place of business are abundant. Research shows that some of the major benefits include:


  • Increased productivity: Research shows that nearly 86 percent of employees treated for depression report improved work performance. And in some studies, treatment of depression has been shown to reduce absenteeism and presenteeism by 40 to 60 percent.
  • Increased retention: In a 2019 survey of more than 1,500 employees nationwide, more than a third of the respondents said they had left a job due at least in part to mental health. Of these, 59 percent said mental health was the primary reason.
  • Decreased health care and disability costs: According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, rates of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases are twice as high in adults with serious mental illness.


Workplace Wellness 360° program specifically has seen participants experience:

  • Deepened understanding of mental illness and suicidal behavior.
  • Reduced stigma surrounding mental health, trauma, and suicide.
  • Decreased stress, burn-out, and fatigue.
  • Enhanced focus, creativity, productivity, and motivation.
  • Health and happiness—improving immunity, resilience, and life satisfaction.
  • Improved relationships and cooperation.
  • Increased empathy and compassion for self and others.
  • Heightened self-awareness and emotional regulation.


How can employers learn more about Workplace Wellness 360°?

To learn more about MHA Sheboygan’s Workplace Wellness 360° program, visit


Want a free, customized consultation? Contact Julie Preder, Executive Director of MHA Sheboygan, at

By: Dana B
Dana came to Acuity in 2016 as a workers' compensation adjuster, where she focused on handling minor to catastrophic claims in multiple jurisdictions. She also has a background in the services industry, with experience in project management and cosmetology. She graduated with a degree in community engagement and education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and serves on the Board of Directors of Mental Health America in Sheboygan County. Outside of work and volunteering, Dana loves spending time with her daughters, cooking, and practicing yoga.

Author of Services & Retail Focus