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American Psychiatric Association

camp fire setup
  • Headquarters

    Arlington, VA

  • Number of Employees


  • Industry

    Accommodation and Food Services

Right Direction ‘Sets Up Camp’ at the APA

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) works to ensure that individuals with mental health issues receive effective care. It found a creative way to bring workplace mental health awareness into its own camp through a unique rollout of Right Direction to its employees – one complete with a real-life campsite scene and an employee music video.

It was the APA’s employee wellness committee that took the reins on the company’s Right Direction initiative two years ago. The committee faced a unique challenge, because many APA employees were already familiar with, or experts in, the topic of mental health – specifically depression.

The committee decided to focus its messaging on one important fact: Even though mental health is the hallmark of the APA’s field, its staff members were not immune to its effects on a personal level.

The APA’s Path to Implementation:

  • Step 1: Gaining support from the APA CEO and Medical Director, Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A.

  • Step 2: Getting human resources (HR) on board.

    • Wellness committee encouraged HR to use the Start the Conversation with Your Vendors tool to get more familiar with the specifics of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and coordinate the rollout with vendor partners.

  • Step 3: Securing the backing of the rest of the executive staff and management.

    • Wellness committee and HR used Manager PowerPoint templates to explain the initiative’s purpose, outline planned activities, and ask managers to support Right Direction by encouraging their employees to actively participate. They also distributed posters and customizable leave-behind pieces that management could use to reinforce their support.

Right Direction ‘Sets Up Camp’ at the APA

  • Lobby Campsite: To create buzz and help the initiative take hold, the committee created a lifelike campsite indoors, using real camping supplies, tents and a no-flame “fire” constructed from logs and craft supplies. Bringing this outdoor scene inside was jarring and started conversations. This high-impact, low-cost tactic tied neatly to Right Direction’s outdoorsy theme.

  • Video from the CEO: Employees received a video via email featuring CEO and Medical Director, Dr. Saul Levin. Dr. Levin expressed his support for the initiative and reminded staff about APA’s mental health benefits and resources, including the EAP.

  • Educational Materials: The educational components available through the Right Direction Materials Library were easily tailored to account for staff members’ familiarity with mental health issues. These included posters, stress bears, wallet cards, and Web and email articles.

  • Lunch and Learn: Borrowing from in-house expertise, the committee hosted a lunch and learn with its deputy medical director, a psychiatrist. A standing-room-only crowd participated in a frank discussion on what depression looks like and what treatments are available.

  • ‘What Makes You Happy?’ Project: The wellness committee encouraged employees to reflect on what makes them happy by recording quick thoughts and responses to the question “what makes you happy?” on posters hung throughout the office. Staff also were invited to participate in filming the APA’s first-ever music video to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

Long-Term Impact

  • The APA gained a new way to connect with its employees while encouraging them to think about their own mental health in a different perspective.

  • As a direct result of Right Direction, the APA invested in a more robust EAP offering for its employees, including more on-site and educational opportunities. For many, it opened the door to consider the EAP as an option for seeking help.

  • The wellness committee continues to display Right Direction posters throughout the office, and many Right Direction stress bears still sit on numerous desks.

  • Nearly two years later, employees still watch their music video.

About American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has more than 36,500 members involved in psychiatric practice, research, and academia representing the diversity of the patients for whom they care.

As the leading psychiatric organization in the world, APA now encompasses members practicing in more than 100 countries.

Last Updated: March 2016

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