Building a Scientific Agenda for Mental Health in the Workplace
Leading with love, a grieving family invests in mental health education and destigmatization
Rich Mattingly and his daughter Christin Lewis knew the only way they could live without their family’s anchor—wife and mother Carolyn Mattingly—was to build an initiative to honor her.
In the wake of Carolyn’s murder by an enraged employee from Rich’s office, they wanted to build something visionary and vital to address mental health needs. Something that would counteract the negative forces that led to Carolyn’s tragic death, encouraging connection and community.
They decided to focus on the one issue that kept surfacing as they worked through the tragedy: nearly every friend and family member spoke about the need for mental health education, destigmatization, and support.
Centering their efforts on her core belief that good people make a difference, in 2014 Rich and Christin launched The Luv u Project, named for Carolyn’s unique sign-off: “Luv u.”
The Project’s mission is twofold: Work with leading experts to create a quantifiable scientific agenda that deeply investigates mental health issues, and then use the findings to pursue responsible and effective solutions, all with a focus on the workplace.
This dual approach is one Rich used productively during his more than 37-year career leading the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in advancing the science of and therapies for that disease.
“I knew from experience I needed to educate myself on mental health and to help inspire the underlying science,” Rich explains. “While I can’t change the past, I can help change the future, and that continues to be the best way to honor Carolyn.”
One of The Luv u Project’s first steps was to fund a national public summit to lay the groundwork for considering mental health in the workplace. They partnered with the Bloomberg School, supporting the first symposium on workplace mental health in 2016. A second convening, “National Summit on Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing: A Focus on the Graduate Academic Environment,” was held on June 27. A video recording of the summit can be viewed here.
To promote workplace mental health best practices, the organization created the Carolyn C. Mattingly Award for Mental Health in the Workplace to recognize companies employing those practices. Presented for the first time this past October, the award recognized three workplaces: Metro Nashville Public Schools; Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP; and the University of Virginia.
Two additional Luv u initiatives aim to elevate the conversation around mental health. The uLead program engages young professionals by inviting them to learn and raise awareness on all aspects of mental health. And the Carolyn C. Mattingly Award for Mental Health Reporting, a partnership with the National Press Foundation, recognizes exemplary journalism that illuminates and advances the understanding of mental health. This year’s recipient was the creators of “Therapy Ghostbusters,” an NPR Invisibilia podcast episode about how refugee survivors of the Cambodian genocide manage post-traumatic stress syndrome.
As the project has grown, Rich and Christin say they have been struck by how much people want to talk about well-being and mental health. “We can feel people’s energy, how fertile the ground is for a dialogue about mental health. It always becomes a personal conversation,” Christin says.
Although they’ve been working to promote workplace mental health and wellness for nearly 10 years, Rich and Christin are just getting started. The goal now is to create a sustainable model that will drive the science and best practices. For instance, the partnership facilitated the School’s successful NIOSH application for the Johns Hopkins P.O.E. Total Worker® Health Center. The Luv u Project also provided support for hiring a faculty member at the School: Albert Zhou, PhD, who will lead collaborative efforts on mental health in the workplace starting later this summer.
As they find more support for their mission, Rich and Christin feel Carolyn’s spirit alive in the project’s work. They know from personal experience that a workplace infused with employee mental and physical health programs can generate more than increased productivity and short-term returns—it will also produce lasting well-being and a workplace community that sustains people for life.
Suzanne Flinchbaugh is a writer in the Office of External Affairs at the Bloomberg School. For more information about research efforts regarding mental health in the workplace, the Department of Mental Health, or about making a gift, please contact Morgan Martin, senior development officer, at email@example.com.