May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. For many of us, the last 24 months of living in the shadow of a global pandemic has brought prolonged isolation from our friends and colleagues and introduced new levels of anxiety and fear many of us have never experienced before. And considering the growing level of unease created by economic, political and social uncertainty in the world, May is the right time for us to have a real conversation about mental health challenges and help reduce the stigma so many people are experiencing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States. One in five Americans will experience a mental illness in any given year. As one of the largest employers in the U.S., Walmart has set out to not only spread awareness among our associates about mental health issues, but also ensure that they have skills necessary to aid or even save a life.
Starting this month, Walmart is launching Mental Health First Aid training that teaches associates how to identify, understand and respond to people who are struggling with mental health challenges. This four-hour training program, which will be available virtually and in-person at the Bentonville Walmart Home Office, will prepare associates to:
- Recognize signs and symptoms and provide direct assistance and support
- Properly reach out to emergency services on someone’s behalf
- Implement the Mental Health First Aid Action Plan
- Access emotional well-being benefits and resources
This is just the latest example of how we are reinforcing our commitment to the mental and emotional well-being of our associates. We will continue to offer 24/7 confidential counseling services with licensed therapists at no cost to all associates and their family members, and we will continue to offer our associates the opportunity to get connected anytime of the day, with confidential and anonymous virtual support groups with people who are struggling with similar issues.
Additionally, we recently expanded a pilot program with AiRCare Health that proactively reaches out to associates enrolled in a Walmart medical plan to check-in and see how they are doing. As a result of the service area expansion to Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, more than 258,000 associates will benefit from this proactive emotional well-being approach.
Well-being is not just the absence of illness — it is the active presence of wellness. As we head into Mental Health Awareness Month in May, benefits like these will be front and center as we work to raise awareness for those living with mental or behavioral health challenges and ensure that those who are struggling know that they are not alone. We have resources available to help. This is all part of our commitment to helping people live better.