Richmond City Hall offering employees mental health days as part of wellness plan

Richmond City Hall is getting serious about the mental health and well-being of some 3,700 workers.
Published: Sep. 4, 2023 at 1:40 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 4, 2023 at 6:08 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond City Hall is getting serious about the mental health and well-being of some 3,700 workers.

“It’s a very tough job. Unfortunately, our people see the worst of the worst, and unfortunately, we take that home a lot of times,” said Chief Melvin Carter, Richmond Fire Dept.

Richmond firefighters must brave grueling working conditions while their police counterparts face some of the most violent imaginable.

“Police feel like we’re supermen and women, and we don’t want to ask for help. I’ve had many challenging days in my career,” said Chief Rick Edwards, Richmond Police Dept.

Now, the city offers two mental health days to first responders and many others who work at city hall.

In addition to the pair of mental health days, an employee engagement committee is now looking at ways to improve the overall work environment, department by department. Also, over the summer, a mental health wellness event is tailored to Black men employed by the city.

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Sabrina Joy-Hogg says it’s all about breaking down mental health stigmas and creating an environment of friendliness and family.

“And so those days are not necessarily planned, right? Issues come up every day in everyone’s life, and so as an employer, we have to recognize that,” said Sabrina Joy-Hogg, City of Richmond Deputy Chief Administrative Officer.

Suicide is the number two killer for firefighters and plagues police, too. Both departments now have a clinician on staff.

Chief Edwards says supervisors and officers are now trained to spot mental health warning signs. A new version of their peer support program is 20 members strong to support a new class.

“When we look at this generation of our younger officers coming into the academy, they’re much more comfortable talking about their feelings. They’re much more comfortable taking those days off and looking at personal wellness,” said Chief Edwards.

The city says using those mental health days is like a sick day. Department heads and managers have been instructed to be nimble if an employee needs that time.