Opinion: Behavioral health impacts workforce

Dierk L. Hall

The modern workplace is becoming more complex and demanding. Young people embarking on careers must arrive mentally prepared for many challenges, including fast-paced work environments, on-the-job bullying and hard-to-please customers. 

Success takes attention, teamwork and coachability, as well as the self-confidence and self-esteem needed to forward one’s own ideas and suggestions.

Behavioral issues can sap concentration and overall productivity — perhaps both on and off the job.

Such concerns not only dramatically impact our individual employability, but also impact the fortunes of co-workers and employers. Emotional and mental wellness is an increasingly important factor in workforce development. Young people beginning their employment careers must be alert to these issues and have the insights and skills needed to surmount them. 

Avery Matthew, who is gender fluid, is pictured at their workplace, Brilliant Staffing, on July 23, 2019, in Chicago. Matthew said some colleagues still stumble over the appropriate pronoun to use.

Employment and mental health systems are partnering to address longstanding challenges experienced by many urban communities affected by violence, including Detroit. This encourages equitable involvement in the workforce by city residents, low income residents, and people of color, and allows for an easier transition into a workplace setting.

From our discussions with employers across our area, we have discovered that mental health is a huge issue when it comes to workforce development — it's a chronic, long-term concern for productivity, team-building, customer relations and profitability.

We believe this attention to mental health reflects an enlightened organizational approach by modern employers. This emphasis can lead to improved economic competitiveness and greater social cohesiveness for individual companies and for our region.

In response to these needs expressed by employers, Connect Detroit, in partnership with the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, has enhanced those aspects of our workplace training programs for young adults from Detroit. These programs include our 3rd annual Workforce Resiliency Conference to be held Aug. 2 at Cobo Center and Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, a citywide summer jobs program that trains and employs young adults between the ages of 14 and 24 for six weeks in July and August. More than 8,000 youths are participating in Grow Detroit’s Young Talent this year.

Also, in support of these goals, among activities at the conference, these alert young people will learn about building mental and emotional wellness skills necessary to thrive in work and life. Workshops will include such topics as building a resume, preparing for a changing job market, recognizing and responding to bullying, and dealing with conflict and environmental trauma.        

In addition to employers, school counselors, teachers and other professionals, we encourage the support of parents, families and peers in helping young people prepare for the career world. If done well, these women and men will know how to shed off and handle constructively that annoying bully or coworker, or have the confidence to ask for help when experiencing emotional or behavioral challenges. In doing so, they will emerge productive and resourceful contributors to our economy and our communities.

Dierk L. Hall is the president and CEO of Connect Detroit.