In today’s fast-paced and demanding work environment, mental health challenges have become prevalent. Recognizing the importance of supporting employees who might be struggling with their mental well-being, throughout the first quarter of 2023 at all Whirlpool Corporation US manufacturing sites, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training was offered to emergency responders, salaried leaders, onsite clinics, health coaches and HR teams This initiative has gained tremendous momentum, with over 20 classes conducted and more than 400 team members receiving MHFA training.
This new company-wide training was started when two operations managers at Whirlpool Corp.’s Findlay, Ohio manufacturing facility embarked on a journey to learn new skills to help their team members. With assistance from their local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) chapter, Kegan Wise and Amy Doroff turned to Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training. This comprehensive program equips individuals with the tools to support and de-escalate those facing mental health issues.
Kegan and Amy enrolled in an 8-hour MHFA training course that gave them a better understanding of common mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and psychosis. They learned practical strategies to approach individuals in crisis, offer initial help, and guide them to appropriate professional resources.
I recently had a discussion with one of our team members about mental health. They had been struggling and needed someone to talk to,” said Wise. “The Mental Health First Aid training that Whirlpool provides taught me to Assess, Listen, Give support and information, Encourage professional help, and Encourage other support, (ALGEE).”
Impressed by the impact of MHFA training on their own abilities, Wise and Doroff brought the initiative to the attention of Findlay plant lead Kristin Day and Senior EH&S Manager Jeff Linstedt. Recognizing the value of prioritizing mental health in the workplace, the plant leadership embraced the initiative wholeheartedly. By the end of 2022, Findlay had successfully trained their emergency responders, salaried superintendents, and onsite clinics.
The success in Findlay didn’t stop there. Manufacturing leadership, led by Dale Laws and Monica Brown, recognized the potential of MHFA training and brought the initiative to the corporate benefits team. This team, led by Corp. Benefits Senior Manager, Liz Fahner partnered with leaders with Monica and Dale and adopted MHFA training under the umbrella of Whirlpool Corp.’s Be*well program and coordinated MHFA training at all other sites across the United States.
“Mental health is an important focus for how we can support employees,” said Tonya Finley-Gaskill. “Our aim is to provide comprehensive tools and support for our employees, with a particular emphasis on mental health, and the inclusion of unique perspectives of our employee resource groups (ERGs) helps raise awareness, reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, and identify signs for timely employee support.”
Whirlpool Corp. sites are experiencing the impact of the training. Leaders like Jeff Jones in Cleveland, TN have shared inspiring stories of how they applied what they learned during the training to support an employee and prevent a potentially more severe outcome. These anecdotes highlight the power of MHFA training in creating a supportive and empathetic work environment.
“Helping someone through a mental health crisis requires patience, empathy, and an open mind,” said Jones. “It’s about reminding them that they are not alone, that it’s okay to ask for help, and that they are heard and valued.”
The expansion of MHFA training to all the company’s US sites demonstrates the commitment Whirlpool Corp. has made to prioritizing employee well-being. Whirlpool’s Be*well initiatives take a proactive approach to addressing mental health concerns, and in turn, contribute to a healthier workforce.