Obama Administration Encourages Agencies to Talk About Mental Health

Pamela Hyde, head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Pamela Hyde, head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Cliff Owen/AP

The head of the Office of Personnel Management is encouraging agencies to talk to their employees about mental health.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta and Pamela Hyde, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, sent a June 19 memo to agency leaders promoting the federal government’s “effective and confidential” employee assistance programs, which provide access to mental health services and treatment for substance abuse to employees and their families.

“Individuals at risk may demonstrate an inability to make decisions, repeatedly miss deadlines, be late to work, or exhibit distractibility and a general lack of focus,” Archuleta and Hyde wrote. “We need to do everything we can to provide employees and their supervisors with tools to recognize impending problems and be able to respond appropriately.”

Archuleta and Hyde emphasized that agency leaders “can start a workplace conversation that will positively impact mental health and well-being.” Attached to the memo were fact sheets for federal supervisors and employees on suicide warning signs and where to find help, if they notice co-workers struggling.

The government’s push to foster a more supportive workplace is partly an effort to de-stigmatize mental health issues. Many people are afraid to seek help with depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other challenges, fearing it will adversely affect their jobs, relationships and reputations.

Employee assistance programs are voluntary, offering free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals and follow-up services to employees with personal or work-related problems. President Obama specifically mentioned employee assistance programs in a June 23 memorandum directing federal agencies to educate employees about workplace flexibilities and benefits. The memo encouraged agencies to expand and support their use of such programs, along with a range of other benefits designed to provide employees with a better work-life balance.

Obama last summer held a National Conference on Mental Health at the White House. The president and Vice President Joe Biden often have talked -- usually after an episode of gun violence -- about improving the mental health system in this country, making sure people get help when they need it, and rooting out the stigma associated with mental illness.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.