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Why IT Leaders Should Care About Mental Health Awareness

Why is it important for IT leaders to create an environment where it’s OK to talk about mental health?  

During Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to talk about this topic because it’s incredibly important to me. Mental health touches every aspect of our lives and impacts everyone around us. In the IT and cyber industry, it seems to be a more prevalent topic as most of us spend more time in the digital realm vs. interactive social environments.  

For many reasons, people in IT careers tend to experience an abundance of stress, anxiety, and burnout at some point. You can read more about that in this blog: Overcoming Cybersecurity Fatigue: Help For IT Service Providers

That’s why it’s important for IT leaders to openly discuss mental health, and remove the stigma associated with it. We can foster better relationships and communications by creating safe environments where we can have open discussions around our individual struggles. 

5 Ideas to Create a Culture of Good Mental Health

Here are some simple, actionable things that IT leaders can do to help create safe spaces for employees to address mental health. Many of these are fairly quick and easy ideas that you can start implementing right away. 

By the way, these tips apply to me as well. I am far from a perfect leader, so I need these reminders as I strive to do better for my team every day. 

1. Lead by example

Share your own feelings, and be as transparent as possible. If you’re having a crappy day or dealing with a hard situation, it’s okay to share and be vulnerable. This helps employees know they can do that, too. 

Admittedly, there can be a fine line between honest sharing and taking things too far. So be careful not to vent in an unhealthy way—the last thing you want is to cast a big shadow on your employees or make them take care of you. 

2. Ask your employees how they’re doing (like, really ask)

Take time to notice how your employees are doing. Check-in and remind them that you’re there to listen, that they matter to you and your team, and that they are “safe” with you. 

But don’t forget to follow up: How are you feeling today? Is it getting any better? Show them that you understand their journey is dynamic, everyone copes differently, and a “quick fix” is not something you expect. 

I also touched on this topic in my May podcast: check out Sunsets & Snowdrifts Cybersecurity Podcast: Episode 2- A Pulse On Mental Health if you are interested. 

3. Offer mental health days (formally or informally)

Make sure people know it’s really okay to take a mental health day. As a leader, give your team permission to step away as needed—even for just an hour or just a moment. 

When stress levels are at their highest, that’s often the time we the most pressure on ourselves to keep pushing forward. But that can be dangerous, because it’s probably the very moment we tend to need to step away the most. 

4. Address the bad juju

Proactively addressing bad vibes in the workplace is most important as you are building the safe space culture, and especially for new hires coming in. Set expectations ahead of time: In our business, we look out for each other. 

When things feel “off” with an employee or an entire team, don’t let it fester. Address it, talk about it, let others share. Don’t tolerate toxic or bad behavior from employees—again, encourage positive communication vs. harmful venting. 

5. Hire empathetic leaders

We all appreciate executives who model empathy—but it shouldn’t stop there. Look for ways to identify high-empathy candidates for leadership roles as well as team members across your entire organization. 

Hiring for culture and soft skills is just as important as someone’s resume. Easier said than done, I know. This is an area where I try to listen to my gut—note the emphasis on “try,” because I am once again preaching to myself in this area.  

If you struggle to identify whether a prospective new hire is truly empathetic, don’t be afraid to use assessment tools as part of the interview process. Or, involve others in your organization who have more insight or experience in this area. 


As IT leaders, we need to lead the way in prioritizing mental health for our teams. The shadow we cast as leaders and individuals in the organization impacts everyone. 

There’s no getting around it—things can get stressful in our industry. But we can foster more resilient teams by building awareness, promoting transparency, and creating safe spaces for those who are struggling. At the end of the day, staying healthy and being there for each other enables us to keep making a difference for our clients.


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