Notes and Mentions
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Serena: Hey Everyone, I?m Serena.
Tina: And I?m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you?re here.
Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health.
Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You?ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: Tina, you and I have talked forever about the idea that when our children struggle with their mental health, we as parents struggle as well, right?
Tina: Absolutely. And we not only talk about it, we have lived it. We KNOW that our children?s mental health affects the entire family.
Serena: Right. One of the struggles we face with this information is that even though we know it, we know it?s true because we?ve experienced it, there isn?t always research to back that up.
Tina: Right. And this is exactly why we were thrilled to learn about a report that has been put out by On Our Sleeves, an organization that works to support children?s mental health in a variety of ways. The report is called, The Great Collide, The Impact of Children?s Mental Health on the Workforce.
Serena: And we?ve invited a guest today who can help us delve into this report as well as discuss how very important it is. Marti Bledsoe Post is the Executive Director of the On Our Sleeves movement for children?s mental health. Marti is also the founder of a?parently, a consultancy offering programs and resources to support parents in the workforce as well as a published author and sought-after national speaker on parents in the workforce. We are so thrilled to have her here with us today! Marti, welcome to the podcast!
Marti: Thank you both for having me.
Tina: Yeah, of course. And we literally found this and were gonna write an episode about it and then I said to Serena, why don?t we just reach out and talk to someone about the report, so thank for saying yes!
Marti: Of course!
Tina: So before we dive in, we?d love to hear you share just a bit about yourself with the audience. You?re clearly passionate about families, wellness, and the workplace. So how have your own experiences as a working mom lead you to this work?
Marti: Oh my gosh, what a great way to open. I have been in the workforce for more than twenty years now and many of those years were spent in marketing agency, leadership roles, running teams, helping create offerings, document processes, all of the big heavy lift of work and it was fulfilling to me. Even after I had children it was still quite fulfilling to me to continue in the workforce, it just got a lot more complicated. And as my career grew and my children grew, when I had a six year old and a two year old at home was really when I started to notice that it seemed extraordinarily hard for our family in certain respects compared to what I was noticing other families able to do, other working moms able to manage or deal with. And I had no idea what that meant. At the same time I think it coincided a bit with a new awakening in the world of work about parenting. And so I was asked to do some talks about being a working mom to some of my industry peers and those talks became workshops and I talked to a lot of other parents through the process of that work. And ultimately I still felt that I was facing an exceptional level of challenge in certain ways. My family really seemed to struggle with transitions, we seemed to struggle with communication, we seemed to struggle with just a general swirl, I guess, that went on in our household and I couldn?t understand it. Now I do. I understand that my daughter has anxiety, she?s highly gifted. My son is showing signs of following in her footsteps in potentially both of those ways. I think we?ve also learned a lot in our family since then about neuro-diversity and different ways of processing things and how when the world comes at you in a way you?re not used to processing and you?re still very small in the world, that can make you resist or act out or shut down. And when we as adults say it like that it sounds so obvious. I mean, I?d resist and act out and shut down too. But it has taken years for all of that to get clear and it has taken literally making the path by walking it throughout both the parenting side and the work side.
And when I began my consultancy to support parents, I tried really hard in all of my work to let parents know that dealing with neurodiverse kids is a thing and it makes life a little bit harder. You have to do more pre-planning. You have to do more communicating. It changes your relationship with your partner. It also requires you to seek different resources. At least that was my lived experience of it. And so I always in my workshops added resources and mentions about this idea that it?s pretty hard to be a busy working parent even if everything sort of runs ?according to plan?. And then it?s even harder when things don?t run according to plan and you?re trying to troubleshoot for why. And you know it?s very different to troubleshoot for a flat tire versus a complete and utter emotional and mental breakdown on the part of one of your most beloved people. And so when I?I originally did a project for On Our Sleeves as a?parently, as a consultant, and they were asking how could our team help them reach working parents with some direct resources and I felt so seen and so supported and so eager to make sure other parents could feel that support and that was the beginning. And since that time, we approached the research project, we?ve been building resources to address the issue and I?ve along that journey come to lead On Our Sleeves because I?m so invested in making sure that families don?t struggle alone.
Tina: Yeah. So I?m just gonna comment on that piece of it. I think you so beautifully said, you felt like the anomaly, right? You felt like the only one and then you started understanding that you were not the only one, right?
Tina: So I kind of wonder who can do it all. We might meet a few of those people in our lives and most of the people I know, mmm, the struggle is real. It is real. We cannot do it all.
Marti: Right. Yeah.
Serena: Yeah. And I really, gosh, relate to so much of what you?re saying. I mean that?s really why we created this podcast and how Tina and I met each other and it?s about that shared struggle and feeling seen and knowing that there are other people out there. So let?s talk a little bit about On Our Sleeves. So why don?t you share what your organization does and why parents would want to know about it.
Marti: Absolutely. We?re an advocacy and awareness organization. We?re on a movement to transform children?s mental health, making sure that in the overall mental health conversation in our country, that kids are included and have a voice in that. We work really hard to break down stigma around the topic. So we appreciate your work and the work of all of your listeners in their own daily lives and conversation when this comes up. Also we provide free resources. Our hope is to make them available to any and every community that might need them. So we have resources at OnOurSleeves.org that are directed to parents and families. We have links to resources that are directed to educators because of course, the classroom is a major place where some of these issues play out. We are working furiously behind the scenes on additional resources so that we can not only do this work we?re approaching now with employers but also down the road, to be able to work with youth sport coaches, people who are in direct contact with teams of kiddo every week or every month. And then thinking, how do we bring these resources more to bear on the primary care community so that when you?re in a well visit with your child, that provider who may or may not have had psychology or psychiatry in their training, can have some beginning resources.
And On Our Sleeves really believes that mental health and wellness exists on a continuum just like physical health and wellness and we can help kids aspire to mental wellness but we also can give them the skills and the building blocks to work on that from a young age. The kicker is many parents today don?t have that in their own upbringing to fall back on in terms of, how do I build mental wellness and resilience in my children. So that?s where we come in is to really provide the resources, conversation starters, guides to certain diagnoses, tips for talking about tough topics, those kinds of things. Again and all of that is at OnOurSleeves.org because I like to say, we have to upskill the grownups and I think that?s really key whether you?re interacting with your own child in your household or a student or a niece or nephew or even just a friend of the family. Children need the grownups around them to better model these skills and invite conversations about these topics.
Tina: Yeah. So what I?m hoping is that all the school districts out there, that there?s someone listening about this whole social/emotional learning stuff, this just fits right into that. We do not have to reinvent the wheel every time. You are inventing an amazing, sparkly, fiery wheel, right? We?ll repeat how people can get to you at the end but I want to shift a little bit to talk about The Great Collide because it?s the thing. It?s how we found you. So as we mentioned in our intro, we understand the struggle because we?ve totally lived those struggles as have many of you out there. So can you share some of the highlights of your report?
Marti: Sure. We investigated how concerned working parents are about their children?s mental health. We found that six in ten are very to extremely concerned about what?s going on with their child?s mental health and development. We found that forty-one percent of parents said that concern had really become key in the prior year. So our study was originally conducted in Spring of 2021 so you?re thinking back then a year would have been the beginning of the pandemic lockdown and all those repercussions. And parents are very concerned. Some parents in our study are what we classified as mental health disrupted parents. So these are the ones who are?they had to index higher on concern, higher on interruption to their work, and then we were careful to distinguish how disruptive were those interruptions. If you think for a second about that, that sounds contradictory but it?s really not. You could be interrupted to let the dog out and that?s a ten second or fifteen second process and then you?re back to your desk and that?s not a disruption necessarily. So we needed to see how disruptive this was and those variables gave us a set of parents who were more disrupted, more concerned about what?s going on.
And among those parents, what we saw was a really startling concern on their part about, I don?t want my child?s mental health concerns to come to light at work because I don?t want to be passed over for a promotion or I don?t want to be judged if I have to leave early. And so we discerned from that that there?s still some stigma in the workplace. There?s still a desire to maybe mask what?s going on or maybe just use the workplace as a last resort in terms of a place you would talk about this. 85% of the adults in our study said, gosh I?d love to talk to another adult about this issue and my child but the people who ranked at the bottom of their list were their manager, their colleagues, their HR representatives. So that?s a finding in and of itself but when you layer onto that the fact that many workplaces have benefits or programs or access to resources that may help alleviate some of these concerns then you really want to make sure we work to strengthen that so that HR is not the last person to know. A quarter of the parents in our study said they weren?t sure if their company offered any benefits that could help their child with their mental health. So given how concerned they are, parents I mean, given how disrupted they are or how many of them are disrupted, we think it?s important that the workplace take on this issue, break down the stigma of talking about it, encourage parents to talk about what?s going on and then proactively communicate, what are the options, if there are any that come from the employer that could make things a little easier for families.
Serena: Yeah. This is?gosh, there?s so much in this that I just resonate with and I can share too that so many parents I?ve supported over the years, I hear again and again, right, you know, the phone calls, right? That?s one of the big ones, right? The phone calls from school is a huge interruption and I?ve known parents who have left their jobs because they just couldn?t juggle it all or who have been asked to leave their jobs. That one?s kind of the worst one, right?
Marti: And that interruption is real. I mean, I think our data supported that as well. That anywhere from thirty to fifty percent of parent?s mind share, on any given day, is on this issue.
Tina: Yeah. Yeah. Well it is why I left the workforce when I did and I was grateful to be lucky enough to not have to worry about my income and so many people, it is such a complicated choice, right? I mean what do you do? And we?ve seen this just exponentially grow during the pandemic. So it is definitely hard. Yeah.
Serena: Yeah. Yeah, so one of the themes of this report, as you were just mentioning, is about how employers can better support their employees and their families. It seems that the idea of a cultural shift in how we view mental health in the workplace would benefit everyone including the employers and there are lots of suggestions in the report for how that might be accomplished and we will certainly link to the report so that people can take a look through it. But since Tina and I are always approaching everything we do with our parent hats on first, are there things that families can do as well?
Marti: Well I encourage anyone who?s got a child at home, whether you already believe that child, whether that child already has a diagnosis and you?re already down the path or whether you?re just sort of in that stage and phase of wondering, wondering if everything?s ok, maybe worrying, find out what your benefit options are. It?s very easy for all of us to not exactly know the details of those until the moment we?re trying to schedule something or pay for something or look up a claim. And I would encourage all families to be really proactive. It?s not your fault that you don?t remember what was said at open enrollment. You had a lot on your mind and things may have been added. So find out what is available and then I also think there?s real power in deciding who you want to confide in at work and whether that?s something like I need like-minded parents so I either need to access or start a parent employee resource group of some kind or I need someone who can tangibly support me every Thursday at four if I have to leave early and they can take notes in a certain meeting, etc.
I think there are a couple ways to think about who can best support you in the workplace. And then when you are talking with leaders and managers, I think it?s ok to say that this is a hard thing for me to share but it?s really important that you understand that I?m not interrupting work or missing a meeting or missing a deliverable because I?m worried about something that?s logistical in nature, it?s more than that. How would you want to avail yourself of resources at work if your child, heaven forbid, were diagnosed with some really horrible, physical ailment? And yet at the same time if that were to happen, you know that work knows how to respond to that. You?d be encouraged to take leave, you?d be encouraged to get help for your family, people would probably be making meals for you and all kinds of help would be coming your way. So how do we get to the point, as families and as employers, where it?s just as common to say we?re dealing with anxiety or depression or ADHD or something else and have the response be the same?
Tina: So I want to keep going down this road and Serena and I are very hopeful people and we are going to ask you to paint a picture of your miracle world, a miracle has occurred. And we wonder, in this miracle world, all employees and families feel supported. What does that world look like Marti?
Marti: Well from a cultural standpoint I think it looks like more open conversation. I think when the word wellness comes up at work, it means physical wellness and mental wellness. When benefits are made available it includes families always without question in our miracle world here. I also think from a logistical standpoint, in the miracle world staffing is not quite so lean across the board. When somebody on Broadway takes a major part, they get an understudy.
Marti: And when a cast is preparing for a major preview week or premier, they often also have swing actors who can take on any one of several parts should the understudy either get called up or be unavailable. And in my miracle world we are all staffed like Broadway so that? Because here?s the reality, you can have a policy that says, of course we?re flexible, leave for the appointment but if no one will take notes for you in the meeting, if no one will work your shift, if no one will handle your caseload or whatever the workload might be then it?s not sustainable for you to continue to show up the way that would be needed by your family. And so I?m very encouraged that in the future, companies are going to be evaluated not just on profitability but on more balanced scorecards, publicly traded companies are going to be evaluated on an additional scorecard called an ESG which is very helpful. So in the miracle world, we?re better staffed and our culture is more open so that?the two have to go hand in hand. The support has to extend across the teams so that whether it?s a parent or someone caring for their own parent, can really feel that it?s ok to go take care of another person and that valuable work is protected.
Tina: Yeah, that?s awesome. We?ve been in this HR world for a long time. It?s something my husband studies and the idea that profitability comes first so many times and if we really back that up and say, ok so what happens to that profitability if everyone?s happier, if everyone can take care of their own needs, we?re gonna work harder for that company, we?re gonna make more profit for that company. So I will get off my soapbox. We will shift and yeah.
Serena: So Marti, before we bring the episode to a close today, is there anything we haven?t asked you that you would like to put out there to the world?
Marti: I think that the message to employers is really one of hope and that, to your point, Tina, we actually did see some measure in the study that parents believe that having access to resources that directly support them with parenting through mental health questions or challenges would make them feel more valued as employees. They believe it would contribute to a stronger culture, they believe it would contribute to higher satisfaction, and they believe that it would reduce turnover on the staff. So I think the message overall to employers is to embrace employees as whole people, which includes their family obligations, whatever those might be, and understanding of course that there are health equity issues to be addressed throughout every single step of this type of concern. I think there are definitely cultural concerns that we see among historically minoritized populations who don?t necessarily feel that they have the permission or the access to resources that we want to make sure employers are extending. So in some ways this is important work in the diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging space. In addition to thinking about it as a productivity and performance investment. So I think that it?s a very positive time for employers to be taking a look at this if the last two years have really shown us how important it is that we see our employees as whole people and include their families in that and then adjust our expectations across measures of health equity and cultural equity. And I think that?s the work. And I think for the best of employers that?s a huge opportunity for impact.
The other thing I would just add, actually, is that within five to twenty years, these children are going to be in the workforce so it?s to everyone?s advantage for us all. When you?re raising kids you realize how fast that time can go and blink and you?ve got children applying for jobs or adults applying for jobs who were children during the COVID pandemic. So we have to be ready as workplaces to take them in as entry level associates across all different types of professions. And so my hope there I would say, again on the future-looking positive note, is that they will hopefully be coming in with a vocabulary and a set of skills that will help the workplace adapt. You know, my own son is eight and he sometime says, I just need a mental health day.
Tina: Love that!
Marti: It gives me a lot of hope for when he?s a junior executive somewhere or a junior manager and he says, I?m gonna take a mental health day and is his workplace says, what are you talking about, I?m excited for him to say, well let me tell you what I?m talking about.
Serena: Yeah. That?s fantastic. So tell our listeners where they can find all the great resources.
Marti: Awesome. Well everything we have available is at OnOurSleeves.org. All of our resources are free. You can go to OnOurSleeves.org/workforce if you want to download your own copy of The Great Collide which includes a lot of tips for employers and it will also prompt you to start receiving emails from us specific to working parents. You can also at that site sign up for emails which come out each week and we talk in there about a lot of great topics and offer up ideas. The clinical director for On Our Sleeves, Dr. Ariana Hoet, she?s a clinical psychologist at Nationwide Children?s Hospital, she and her team really help inform all of our resources so you can know that everything you?re looking at is evidence backed and has been tried. I always find that very comforting as a parent and as a professional.
Serena: Yeah. Fantastic. Thank you. So Marti, thank you so much for taking time out of your super busy schedule to talk with us today and for sharing your personal story. That always make a difference for people to hear that?your passion in this work and all of the work that you and On Our Sleeves are doing to move all of us closer to that miracle world.
Marti: Thank you. Thanks so much for the discussion today. I really appreciate it and your work as well.
Tina: Yeah. Well, thank you so much. So podcast friends, we are, as always, grateful for all of you listening and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting Apple podcasts, leaving us a review, subscribing and please share with others. You will find lots more content on our website NoNeedtoExplainPodcast.com. You will also find us on all the socials; Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and you can connect with us as well if you need a like-minded ear to listen, we are right here for you.
Serena: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.
Tina: Thanks for listening!