OPM Director Kiran Ahuja testifies during a House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing on March 9, 2023.

OPM Director Kiran Ahuja testifies during a House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing on March 9, 2023. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

OPM Highlights Mental Health Resources for Feds

The federal government is setting up a new listserv to provide federal employees with mental health information, events and tools to boost mindfulness.

The Office of Personnel Management this week encouraged agencies to highlight the variety of mental health resources available to federal employees, and highlighted a new interagency effort to connect feds with mental health related tools and events.

In a memo to agency heads marking the start of Mental Health Awareness Month, OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said protecting the physical and mental well-being of federal workers is a “top priority” for the administration.

“We encourage agency leaders to remind employees about the importance of cultivating healthy wellness habits, which include caring for one’s mental health on a proactive rather than reactive basis,” she wrote. “Initiating regular conversations surrounding mental and emotional well-being is instrumental in normalizing and destigmatizing receiving mental health treatment and fostering a healthier workforce.”

Ahuja said a new interagency listserv called Mindful Fed will offer tools and activities that federal employees can use to maintain their mental health.

“OPM would also like to shed light on Mindful Fed, a new interagency community of practice offering an array of services including mindful space and guided meditations to help cultivate wellbeing and resilience in the federal workforce,” she wrote. “Mindful Fed is designed to complement agencies’ total worker wellness goals by integrating mindfulness strategies and practices into the federal workplace culture, thus enhancing employees’ performance, leadership development, and health and resilience.”

Federal workers seeking to join the new listserv can email Mindful-FED-subscribe-request@listserv.gsa.gov, Ahuja wrote.

The initiative is the latest in a string of efforts to improve feds’ access to mental health support services. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, OPM in May 2021 urged agencies to focus on their employees’ mental health, citing the toll of pandemic and stress of potentially returning to traditional work sites. Although most agencies have already begun wean employees off of the maximum telework posture held at the height of the pandemic, the Office of Management and Budget instructed agencies to scale back the use of telework and “substantially increase meaningful in-person work at federal offices” following the end of the COVID-19 national emergency next week.

And last year, OPM published a pamphlet and tip sheet on mental health and wellness in the workplace. The federal government’s HR agency continues to encourage employees to utilize agencies’ employee assistance programs to promote their mental health.

“Offered by each federal executive agency, EAPs can be a vital aid in assisting employees with a wide span of problems which may adversely affect morale, performance and well-being,” Ahuja wrote. “Agencies should keep in mind that EAPs should not solely be promoted in the wake of tragedies or negative events, as they can provide mental health counseling and resources which are helpful in maintaining a positive state of mind. Many EAP counseling services can work in conjunction with [Federal Employees Health Benefits] health plans to find covered local care for federal employees.”