Starbucks expands mental health benefits with first aid program

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Starbucks is expanding its mental health benefits to employees, adding to efforts it began last year to fight the stigma associated with mental health.

Recently, the coffee giant initiated a training program called Starbucks Mental Health Fundamentals, which was inspired by the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Mental Health First Aid program. The Starbucks training includes four, 30-minute modules on effective listening, providing encouragement and reassurance, providing resources and information, and the importance of self-care.

“This is one of the last steps that we've made in a much longer and larger journey around the whole topic of mental health,” says Ron Crawford, vice president of global benefits at Starbucks. “When we started looking into things, we found that the mental health delivery system in our country is just not where it needs to be. It's not serving us as a people.”

More than 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and one in five Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.

Starbucks was looking for a way to provide its employees with holistic mental health programs that provide services to the workers and their families. The latest initiative provides training and resources to help staff recognize and respond to signs of mental health and substance use issues.

“This is a part of an overall focus at Starbucks and really supporting emotional wellness and initiatives that are not just education and training related, but also well-being related,” Tramaine El-Amin, assistant vice president of strategic partnerships at the National Council for Behavioral Health. “Think about being in the workplace, if there is a medical emergency, there is a protocol in place. When it comes to mental health, often individuals don’t know what they can say legally.”

See Also: Starbucks offers all employees access to free therapy

Since Starbucks announced its commitment to employee mental health last fall, it has introduced several new mental health benefits including free Headspace subscriptions and 20 mental health sessions with a therapist or coach each year for free. Starbucks also works with like minded organizations to raise awareness, most recently with Headstrong and Blue Star Families, as well as the Born This Way Foundation.

“When we started out on this [program] we were looking for ways to specifically train, which is different from providing treatment therapy options,” Crawford says. “We're trying to provide all of our people with a comprehensive set of tools. We’ve got a mental health delivery system in this country that is not serving our needs. It just needs to be better. Any employer ought to be going after this problem to better serve their employees and our society as a whole.”

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