Mental Health & Workplace Safety 

In anticipation of GSX, we sat down with presenters of upcoming sessions in order to get a better understanding of the topics at hand. This week we are featuring, “Mental Health & Workplace Safety,” presented by Jeremy Prout, CPP, APP, the regional security director at International SOS, Kelly Johnstone, the Chief Security Officer at V2 Global, Robert Quigley, a professor of surgery and the senior vice president and global medical director at International SOS, and Steven Bernard, CPP, PSP, APP, a senior security advisor at International SOS. Read on for what they had to say and don’t forget to register for GSX 2022!

Q: How did you become interested in your topic? 

JP: I first became interested in the topic of workplace violence after the 1999 tragedy in Columbine, Colorado. As my career progressed, I gained a greater understanding of the intersection of workplace violence and mental health issues. As security professionals, we have a duty to ensure a safe working environment and also to make sure that individuals who are struggling can get the assistance they need. 

Q: Tell us about your presentation and why should security professionals have this topic on their radar. 

KJ: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an increase in mental health awareness, issues and incidents. We are also seeing more aggressive behavior, less tolerance of differing opinions, and more polarization around beliefs, which are all leading to the potential for bad behavior in the workplace. Security professionals need to be keenly aware of these changes and review their current policies and programs around workplace safety to ensure they are able to protect their employees and appropriately assess and mitigate any potential issues. 

Q: What advice would you give security professionals interested in this topic? 

RQ: Security professionals have actually been battling two contagions: COVID-19 and mental health which are not mutually exclusive. The same energy and focus placed on the health and safety of workforces needs to be applied to the management of mental health. Besides the obvious impact mental health is having on absenteeism and presenteeism, there is now growing evidence that workplace violence will be yet another manifestation. Mitigation best practices through awareness, education, and open dialogue will become standard operating procedure in any organization. 

Q: How do you see this issue evolving in the next 2-5 years? 

SB: Work from anywhere, hybrid work schedules, forced return to work, depleting government resources, the great resignation, the insider threat, declining economies and a possible recession will all likely increase the evolving mental health crisis. The burden this will place on employers is a critical one. Let’s have an open discussion and be a part of the solution versus failing to improve the environment.