Mental Health In The Workplace Forum


Mental Health In The Workplace Forum
Added on February 11, 2022 to Chamber News

Mental Health In The Workplace Forum

“Recognize that everyone is experiencing mental health issues, no matter what. Because of the state that we’ve been in the past two years, everyone is going through something.” Dr. Cynthia Romero, Director of the Brock Institute at Eastern Virginia Medical School, discussed one of four ways business leaders can address mental health challenges in the workplace.

The Hampton Roads Chamber held the Mental Health Forum on February 10 with a panelist discussion. Dr. Cynthia C. Romero, Director of the Brock Institute at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Kurt Hooks, Ph.D., CEO of the Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center, and Nedra Moncrief-Craig, Ph.D., Behavior Health Services Director for Sentara Healthcare, were our guest panelists. The panel discussion focused on mental health in the workplace.

Hampton Roads Chamber President & CEO Bryan K. Stephens shared an emotional story about an old friend from the military who became a victim of the disease of mental illness, which sadly ended in tragedy. Stephens emphasized an objective to the Mental Health in the Workplace Forum how the discussion can bring positive change. “We as a Chamber can be a greater awareness to this issue. If we can save one life, if we can save one person, that’s what we’re here today to do.” 

Stephens asked the panelists what can business leaders do to address the mental health challenges in the workplace. Dr. Cynthia Romero mentioned Eastern Virginia Medical School is a connector, respected collaborator, and catalyst for action. “Our priority has been to connect individuals to resources, raise the awareness of the fantastic resources we have in our region, and also facilitate learning education and training, so that people, especially within businesses, are able to access the services and support that they need.”

Dr. Romero discussed four ways business leaders can start to address mental health challenges in the workplace. 

  1. Acknowledging what mental health needs the business has.  
  2. Recognizing that everyone is experiencing mental health challenges. 
  3. Evaluating the organization’s culture.
  4. Access the available resources, not just resources that are available within your organization. 

Dr. Romero emphasized the importance of recognizing different variations of mental health. “When we realize that everyone is going through mental changes, it’s just a matter of also appreciating that everyone is going through those mental changes differently.”

Hooks, Ph.D., praised the Hampton Roads Chamber on spotlighting the challenges of mental health during his introduction.” Thank you, Bryan, and thank you to your team at the Chamber just for the phenomenal work that you all are doing. I appreciate the fact that you and your team have chosen to spotlight this very important topic.” Hooks discussed the seriousness of mental health compared to other diseases like cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. “Mental health is health, period. We have to continue to shift that paradigm and make it feel safe so leaders can be looked at as modelers that show transparency.” 

Hooks discussed how developing an open & transparent environment are positive steps towards addressing mental health challenges with employees. “Creating the venue where people can feel safe and engage to come to have these conversations, plus educate ourselves on how to conduct those conversations, and then being able to lead individuals to resources.” 

Nedra Moncrief-Craig, Ph.D., shared an emotional story with the audience of a former employee who became a victim of a mental health illness and sadly ended in tragedy. “From that day on, I made it a point that every time I see somebody, I always speak. Every time I’m with an employee, I ask them how they are doing because if someone is in a crisis, I want you to tell me.”

The audience actively engaged in the Mental Health Forum. An audience member asked what an employee can do when taking care of someone else, followed by another audience member asking for advice on what to do to help their children in a situation where they express that they are stressed.

Moncrief-Craig answered these questions by sharing of her daughter in college that has experienced stress and reached out for help. Moncrief-Craig advised her daughter to utilize the school’s resource center for a therapist. “It’s better as a parent just to listen then say okay, do you need help, and if you need help, can you not go talk to a therapist?” She continues, “It’s okay to tell your children you can talk to a therapist.” Moncrief-Craig emphasized a vital step towards solutions for mental illness is communication. “I want to tell your children it’s okay to find somebody to talk to.” She continues, “I want you to tell your children it’s okay to ask for help.” 

Amber Eguyd, DNP, RN, NE-BC, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer for Chesapeake Regional, provided Member Spotlight Sponsor Comments on behalf of Chesapeake Regional Healthcare. “I hope you can take away from today’s forum by encouraging to choose kindness to each other, to others, and to help our employees everywhere find that better space to learn more about mental health, and the impact it has on business, and how we can all work together.”

Iris Lundy, RN, BSN, Senior Director of Health Services at Sentara Healthcare, provided Presenting Sponsor Comments on behalf of Sentara Healthcare. “While we are all feeling the impact of this pandemic, some of us are facing overwhelming challenges that lead to stress and anxiety. It will take all of us working together and staying connected to truly make a difference in this space. We are really excited about the conversation we will have today.”

Here are resources available if you or someone you know is experiencing mental health challenges. You can also call 1-800-726-4727 for the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline.


Thank you John E. Littel, Secretary of Health and Human Resources, for providing this letter for recognizing the important conversation of Mental Health. 

The Hampton Roads Chamber is proud to serve this region as an Impactful Advocate, Inspiring Ignitor, and Regional Collaborator, setting the conditions for businesses to succeed.