Douglas County School District — which with about 8,000 employees is the county’s largest employer — believes that using peer involvement to recognize and combat mental health issues among staff is vital to the district’s effort to support employees’ mental health.
Each school has a designated “wellness champion,” a faculty member who helps peers work through problems that arise, whether they be personal, professional, social or financial.
The wellness champion is chosen based on a recommendation from the school principal. Each is provided resources — to help guide co-workers through struggles in their day-to-day lives — from Health Links, a nonprofit focused on improving workplace health, based at the Center for Health, Work and Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health.
Sometimes, that support can be as simple as providing a listening ear to a fellow staff member who needs to talk to someone, said Rosa Reynolds, DCSD’s benefits director. He or she also can point a co-worker in the right direction when dealing with a difficult issue by providing information for referrals and resources.
Other common situations include helping employees through personal financial struggles or family issues.
“It’s more like ‘Let’s get everyone involved in this program,’ ” Reynolds said. “It’s a recipe to comfort your mind that everyone goes through phases and steps in our lives … Typically, you trust your co-workers who are sitting right next to you.”