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190: A Collaborative Effort for Mental Wellness with Rebecca Fairman, Executive Director of Connections for Mental Wellness

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According to the World Health Organization, the estimated cost of depression and anxiety is $1 trillion per year (globally) due to lost productivity. The 2019 Mind the Workplace report revealed that 55% of respondents were afraid to take the day off to tend to their mental health. Pair these two stats (just a couple of the many out there) and we have a costly issue wrapped in stigma.

That’s why one of the most exciting advances in wellness is the inclusion of mental health as a component of employee wellbeing. Today’s guest, Rebecca Fairman, Executive Director of Connections for Mental Wellness, shares the changes being made in northeast Wisconsin through a collective impact model and the company she leads, Connections for Mental Wellness.

In this episode, Rebecca discusses how Connections for Mental Wellness got started and the initial planning after receiving a one million dollar grant. She gives examples of a few barriers to accessing mental health support that her company hopes to assist with, and the pros and cons of collaborating with so many other organizations seeking to address similar mental health care issues.

Rebecca shares how employers are represented in the work being done and a few tools available to employers to get started, like the ICU tool and mental health first aid training. She discusses her belief in the importance of psychological safety and active listening. Finally, Rebecca gives a tangible tip for how to start addressing employee mental health in your organization.

This episode is sponsored by University of Wisconsin Health and Wellness Management, offering online bachelor’s and master’s degrees in wellness management. You can visit for more information. 

Graduates of the program have launched successful wellness careers with healthcare systems, wellness program vendors, community agencies, insurance providers, even the military. Here are some really cool things about UW Health and Wellness Management :

  • Courses are designed and taught by distinguished faculty from the University of Wisconsin, many of whom actively work in the field.
  • UW Health and Wellness Management is also supported by an advisory board, industry experts from corporations such as Children’s Wisconsin, Willis Towers Watson, and the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds, who offer advice on changing trends in health and wellness so that students are learning the most up-to-date methods.
  • Students often say the flexible, online format is a big factor in their ability to earn a degree. (Our recent situation is an indication of the advantages of online learning.) Although the program is online, you’ll make strong connections with peers and faculty, just as you would on campus.

Consider this from a recent graduate of the master’s program: 

“For a class project in Research Methods for Wellness Programs, our team had six people working in three time zones across four states. Each student’s career path was different. As a result, everyone brought a unique perspective to the project: clinical, legal, advocacy, policy, governmental. It made the project so interesting.”

UW Health and Wellness Management bachelor’s and master’s degrees provide the skills you need to manage comprehensive employee well-being programs that foster healthier lifestyles and promote the value of staying well. 

Turn your passion for wellness into a healthy career with University of Wisconsin Health and Wellness Management. Visit or contact an enrollment adviser by phone, 1-877-895-3276.

Interview Highlights (with timestamps):
  • [7:00] The start of Connections for Mental Wellness
  • [10:40] The planning the first steps after funding
  • [12:16] Barriers to accessing behavioral health support
  • [17:41] Pros and cons of collaboration with other companies on this issue
  • [25:30] How employers are represented in the collective impact model
  • [28:29] Facilitating mental health first aid
  • [33:17] The ICU tool
  • [37:02] What Rebecca is most proud of accomplishing
  • [40:37] Rebecca’s tangible tip
Mentioned in this episode:
Full Bio:

Rebecca Fairman is the Executive Director of Connections for Mental Wellness, an initiative with the long-term goal of increasing mental wellness education, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health needs, and promoting the emotional well-being of individuals throughout Brown County. Connections for Mental Wellness is a community-wide collective impact initiative that brings together and facilitates diverse groups of stakeholders (such as nonprofits, government, community advocates, schools, employers, health systems, and so on) to help address community needs and issues related to mental wellness. It is funded through a significant, multi-year grant from the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment from the Medical College of Wisconsin and a Basic Giving Partnership Grant from the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation.

Rebecca has worked in social services and mental health care for over 20 years. She has served in various roles with the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and Foundations Health & Wholeness, as well as volunteer service on a number of boards and committees. Her work has focused on nonprofit management, fund development, and organizational development. She holds a degree in Public Administration and Public Policy from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay and is a certified trainer for Mental Health First Aid for Adults.

Rebecca is passionate about the work being done through Connections for Mental Wellness. She believes that through collaboration, education, and enhanced systems of care we can create a community that values and embraces mentally healthy children, adults and families.

Wellness Professionals

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