World Mental Health Day is celebrated each year on October 10. Since the pandemic, mental health has become more and more important in the workplace, including at events. This is especially true at M&IW, where CEO Tina Madden has intentionally fostered a culture that supports employees and promotes positive mental health.
In her State of the Company address at the 2023 M&IW Summit, she shared that mental health and well-being is “no longer a nice-to-have for any organization or any leader. It is critical.” Hear more of her thoughts around the importance of mental wellness in this clip:
Mental Health at Meetings and Events
While it is undeniably important to foster a positive work-life balance for your team, especially those who are working from home, it is equally important to devote that same level of care and attention to your event attendees’ mental health. In honor of World Mental Health Day and in support of our continued commitment to ending the stigma around mental health, here are ideas for promoting positive mental health at your meetings and events.
Host a Mental Health Speaker or Workshop
Take your commitment from mental health from covert to overt with a dedicated presentation or workshop devoted to the topic. This can be beneficial both in raising awareness and in reducing stigma. For example, mental health professionals can share signs of stress and tips for recognizing and reducing stress levels. Alternatively, inspirational keynote speakers can share how to make the most of your life and have a more positive outlook. No matter what route you take, be sure the session is engaging and leaves attendees with tangible takeaways.
Offer Mental Wellness Stations
Simply telling attendees you value their mental health isn’t enough; it’s time to practice what you preach. Small mental wellness stations can be made readily available throughout the venue to visit during breaks or meals. You can also schedule time in the agenda for attendees to explore the stations.
Beyond budget and space constraints, there’s no limit to the variety of stations you can offer. Ideas include mini massages, aromatherapy, yoga (or chair yoga if space is limited), guided meditation, coloring stations, and relaxation stations. While some stations require bringing in professionals—for mini massages and guided meditation, for example—for others, like coloring and rest stations, the only required labor is set-up.
Incorporate a Mental Health Giveback Element
As corporate social responsibility continues to grow in popularity, so has the inclusion of giveback elements in meetings and events. Giveback ideas include supporting a mental health charity, research foundation, or other related organization. This can be done by donating a portion of registration revenue, incorporating an auction or raffle, or holding an onsite fundraiser. For fundraisers, it is important to ensure there’s a corporate commitment as well, whether that’s matching donations or kicking things off by making the first donation.
Encourage Physical Activity
While it’s not the only indicator of mental health, physical health is intrinsically related, which is why physical activity helps boost mental health. The endorphins released improve mental alertness, increase energy levels, and provide a mood boost,1 all things you want for your attendees.
Encourage physical activity at your event by hosting optional yoga classes or fun runs before or after your scheduled sessions. Within your agenda, plan short dance breaks between particularly long sessions or change your 10-minute restroom break to 20 minutes and encourage attendees to use the extra time to take a short walk.
Explore the Great Outdoors
Spending time outside not only makes your event stand out from the crowd, but it also bring physical and psychological benefits for attendees, including improved attention spans and increased happiness and mental well-being.2 Give attendees the gift of nature by sourcing venues with outdoor space aplenty.
Ideally, host sessions or networking receptions outside. If weather conditions or logistical constraints make that impossible, encourage attendees to take a quick walk outside during breaks or mealtimes. Event spaces with windows are always appreciated, especially ones with a view. Even if attendees can’t physically be outside, seeing the outdoors and receiving that natural light are the next best thing.
Bring on the Puppies!
Partner with a local animal shelter to have a puppy-petting station at your event. Petting or even just being around animals has tangible mental health benefits, including a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone, and an increase oxytocin, the bonding hormone.3 There’s also evidence that interacting with dogs help people think better and stay more focused. At the very least, bringing puppies to your event adds an extra dose of cuteness that is sure to put a smile on attendees’ faces.
Expressing gratitude is proven to improve both physical and mental health and should be practiced daily to maximize effectiveness.4 Last year, we explored five ways to practice gratitude at your events, including a gratitude wall and wellness spaces centered around thankfulness. Encourage continued practice and keep it top of mind for attendees after the event with curated gifts. Ideas include gratitude journals and jewelry or keychains engraved with quotes to inspire appreciation.
Train Your Event Staff
While promoting positive mental health and knowing about mental illnesses is important, it is just as important for event staff to know how to respond to mental health crises. While first responders or law enforcement can provide assistance, basic training can help event staff respond appropriately and safely while waiting for additional help to arrive.
Training resources in the US include Mental Health Awareness Training, offered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and Mental Health First Aid, offered through the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. As part of your event’s emergency preparedness plan, research the local mental health resources available at your event’s destination so your team knows who to contact in case of emergency.
Ready to start planning your next event with mental well-being at the forefront? M&IW’s award-winning experts are ready to partner with you to plan and manage your next event. Contact us to get started.
Already an M&IW customer? Contact your Customer Success Manager to learn more.
If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health struggles, talk to your doctor or another health professional and ask them to connect you with the right services. In the US, you can also call SAMHSA’s free, confidential National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. In the UK, you can find a local NHS mental health helpline.