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It's OK to NOT be OK

The first few months of 2020 have been a mental and emotional roller coaster for so many people. With the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic showing no sign of slowing down, high unemployment in most industries and a racial divide across the country, it is no wonder so many people are feeling anxious about life. As people look for new employment or return to their current place of employment some are burdened with depression, anxiety and emotional exhaustion and must ask themselves "I am really OK"?

According to the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness, and at least 8.4 million Americans provide care to a person with an emotional or mental illness. These statistics trended upward with the start of "social distancing" due to the Covid-19 pandemic and continue to climb as people feel the angst of returning to the confines of an office setting. This trend has caused organizations to be invested in the mental health of their employees more now than no other time before.

To prevent employee burnout and deal with the increasing stresses of today's times many organizations have increased their company benefits to include wellness programs such as employee assistance programs (EAP), fitness centers, mini clinics, and paramedical services. Some have even hired Chief Wellness Officers as the newest member of their C-suite to evaluate their employee’s mental health and wellbeing. Chief Wellness or Wellbeing Officers were originally hired in hospital settings to reduce the burnout of clinicians but now have been added into the higher education and corporate spaces.

The role of a Chief Wellness Officer is to drive the strategy and innovation around work-life, health, and wellness. They are also to empower, encourage employees and their families to eat well, exercise, reduce stress and take a proactive, preventive approach to health throughout their lives. Although the Chief Wellness Officer is not a licensed therapist, they will usually have a PHD in Psychology or Master’s Degree in Social work and an interest in human behavior which will help them to recognize the warning signs of an employee in distress.

Chief Wellness Officers recognize that humans are an organization's most valuable assets. We are responsible for the organization's budgets, productivity and drive the bottom line. Just like machines we need maintenance, good fuel, and positivity to power us up. With all the negativity going on in the world recently, we have to take the time out for self-care so when we are ready to step into the world known as our "new normal" we can do it and say I AM OK.

Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what's left of you.- Katie Reed

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