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USF and Crisis Center of Tampa Bay offer a free, online course on mental health in the workplace

Close-up photo of a teenage girl's hands with fingers crossed nervously. She is in a therapy session with her psychotherapist.
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The University of South Florida College of Behavioral and Community Sciences is partnering with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay to offer free, online courses helping employees and their bosses navigate mental health issues in the workplace.

USF is teaming up with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay to offer seven installments of a mental wellness course examining how behavioral health affects the workplace.

The COVID-19 pandemic really did a number on people’s mental health.

And Julie Serovich is trying to change that.

She reached out to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay for help in creating a free, online course discussing how mental health affects people in the workplace.

Serovich is the Dean of the University of South Florida College of Behavioral and Community Sciences.

She says the series, "Mental Health and Wellness in the Workplace," is open to anyone wanting to learn more about mental health and workplace culture.

"We're geared primarily for those people who have to deal with disruption," Serovich said. "People that may have difficulties in the workplace or addictions, and they show up and manifest in different ways."

But she added the seven-installment series should not replace therapy.

"It is not about diagnosis, it's not about surveillance, and it's not about treatment. It's about identifying and getting people to someplace that can assist them.”

Addressing the workplace culture

Every week, starting June 12, a new episode will be released. Each will cover different behavioral health topics and include a variety of panels, lectures, and discussions.

The first installment will examine the impact of mental health within companies.

"What does it cost you in terms of having people with mental health, behavioral health, or addictions in the workplace?" Serovich said. "What's the bottom line for your business?"

 A blue background has white text on it describing the curriculum of an online mental health course.
USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences
Each of the seven installments of the Mental Health and Wellness Course in the Workplace will cover different aspects of behavioral health for employees and their bosses.

The episodes will move through the culture of workplaces and how it is changing.

"We know that we've had the great resignation and we've had people stepping out of their workplace," she said. "So what is the culture that will facilitate getting the best from your workers and having your workers give their best?"

Other episodes will cover the foundations of mental health and wellness and how to identify and approach people in the workplace.

Clara Reynolds, the CEO of Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, was able to contribute a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the project. She said the series will also cover some pretty hard topics.

The lingering effects of COVID-19

"What happened out of COVID-19 is that individuals recognize that issues like anxiety and depression, crisis thoughts, suicide, those are things that aren't taboo as much anymore," Reynolds said. "They need to have a place to air and to vent and that for many individuals, they want their employer to recognize and acknowledge when they're struggling."

Reynolds said, for a long time, workplace culture was that if an employee showed any kind of mental health problem, they may be negatively affected by it.

"Maybe that would impact you being promoted, maybe that would impact you getting a raise," Reynolds said. "I think what we're seeing right now is a real push by employees — they're saying, 'no, no, no, I'm bringing my whole self to work.'"

Because the series is virtual, participants will be able to go through the course at their own pace.

Around 40 speakers from around the country will be featured throughout, offering their expertise and advice on mental wellness.

Reynolds said each course will give people the opportunity to "pause for a moment" if they need to, and anyone who signs up has the "permission to stop and take a break."

She hopes that once participants finish the course, they can recognize the importance of their mental health.

"To be able to empty their stress bucket every single day, so that they can be the best selves for not just themselves, but their families, and also for their businesses," Reynolds said.

 Two women dressed in business casual clothing sitting at desks while speaking virtually.
USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences
The University of South Florida College of Behavioral and Community Sciences' Dean Julie Serovich is partnering with the CEO of Crisis Center of Tampa Bay Clara Reynolds to offer free, online courses helping employees and their bosses navigate mental health issues in the workplace.

To access the free online course, attendees will need to register online. No additional requirements are necessary to sign up.

The University of South Florida is also offering a certificate and digital badge for $179 that participants can display on social media and resumes.

Meghan Bowman is the WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for spring of 2023.