Mental health @Audi
New trends in society and transformation processes in industry are rapidly changing the world that we live in. Many of these changes create tremendous opportunities. But an individual’s mental health can increasingly suffer in combination with stress, crises and personal misfortune. Nearly 30 percent of the population in Germany suffers from a mental illness. For this reason, AUDI AG has taken an array of steps to strengthen the mental health of Audi employees and assist those affected by mental illness.
Everyone has mental health. We talk about it!
In 2019, a team in occupational health management – consisting of many different departments at Audi, the Audi BKK health insurance fund, the Audi Works Council and Ingolstadt Hospital – launched a destigmatization campaign. Under the slogan “Everyone has mental health. We talk about it!,” employees were encouraged in discussions, information booths, podcasts, flyers and seminars to stop viewing mental health as a taboo topic.
“The campaign was designed to prompt individuals to inquisitively explore the issue of mental health in a way that was non-judgmental and free of shame or reservations.”
Audi employees should be able to focus on mental health in a preventive, self-determined manner at an early stage. The initiative is supported by a specially developed manual including a guide for conducting consultations and descriptions of possible patterns of behavior caused by illness.
As part of the initiative “Everyone has mental health,” Audi has also initiated a program called Health Guides who awaken interest in health-related topics in the company’s departments. The focus is on strengthening personal and team resilience and providing information about a wide range of prevention programs.
Audi stands for a strong health service
With the help of its measures and programs, AUDI AG is systematically promoting something that has been the centerpiece of occupational health management for 100 years: preventive and compassionate action. These programs include the Audi Checkup that has been offered since 2006 and provides employees with a regular full medical examination that uses the very latest diagnostic systems. The checkup helps spot acute and potentially new health problems as early as possible.
The Audi Checkup is complemented by a specific Mental Health Checkup. In consultation with mental health experts, interested parties can reflect on their own psychological health. The aim is to be able to detect psychological stresses and anomalies at an early stage and provide the person affected with the appropriate recommended actions and tools. The Mental Health Checkup was developed by mental health experts at AUDI AG and was evaluated in collaboration with the Technical University of Chemnitz.
The aim is to raise employees’ awareness levels about their personal needs, resources and behavior patterns as a way of better preparing them to face possible mental challenges. All discussion and counseling content is protected by medical confidentiality. Appointments are free of charge and can be booked during work hours.
In 2020, Audi was presented with the Anti-Stigma Award of the German Association for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics for its campaign “Everyone has mental health. We talk about it!”
“Our campaign changed a great deal at Audi. Our colleagues now feel much freer to talk about their mental health and seek out dialogue much earlier when they are not doing well,” says Ute Heinrich. “Our initiative broke the first taboo. We now want to help people continue to talk about mental health and mental illnesses in an open, respectful manner.”
You can’t be healthy unless you’re mentally healthy
Ute Heinrich is the Head of the Occupational Health Center Ingolstadt North, an occupational physician and psychotherapist
In the following interview, she talks about the meaning of mental health and the programs’ successes.
Why is mental health still a taboo for many people?
One major reason is that the topic is associated with a great amount of shame. Many people, including Audi employees, are reluctant to talk about their mental problems. They do not want to admit or cannot admit that they might need professional help. Among colleagues, managers and friends, people are frequently afraid that they may say the wrong thing. All of these things can cause the affected individual and their families to be stigmatized. But it is this stigmatization that frequently prevents problems from being diagnosed at an early stage and treated, even though psychiatric illnesses can be treated well.
Every individual can experience a personal crisis at any time …
Such crises are generally preceded by a chain of many events that end in the “last straw,” the event that triggers an illness. Or a dramatic event causes individuals to call their entire life situation into question. From the very beginning, the aim of “Everyone has mental health. We talk about it!” was to take mental health very seriously and to openly talk about it, just as we do about our physical health. We want to provide long-term support for the self-awareness, self-care and personal responsibility of all colleagues. You have to understand this: You can’t be healthy unless you’re mentally healthy!
How do you rate the success of the campaign?
After talking with a large number of people, I know that we have taken a huge step forward in our efforts to destigmatize mental illness in the company and thus in society as a whole. I met an employee who was mentally ill for more than two years without anyone knowing about the situation or being able to help. He said the campaign enabled him find to courage to seek help. Such moments have shown us just how valuable our work is.
Willingness to talk about mental health appears to be generally increasing?
The questions being submitted to us and all partners in occupational health management are rising sharply. For this reason, we have increased the number of support options once again and expanded our partnership with regional experts in the area of mental health.
Do you plan to continue the campaign?
Definitely. The mental health of our workforce is a very high priority for the company’s management team and us.
As a fundamental value, the topic of health has become deeply rooted in our consciousness and become synonymous with a high quality of life. As a central goal in life, the megatrend is shaping all areas of life, industries and companies. Based on available data, mental health in particular is a key factor in employee health. Audi therefore sent a strong signal in 2023 and hired four psychologists in Audi Occupational Health.