By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It has been a week since Vikings player Everson Griffen’s personal struggle came to light. The team showed concern for his well-being and reached out to police.

WCCO took a closer look at what the NFL has in place for teams and players in terms of mental health. The issue extends well beyond the football field, so we found out what companies in Minnesota are doing for employees. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports it affects one in five people.

The concern surrounding the mental well-being of defensive end Everson Griffen catapulted the conversation surrounding mental health back into the public arena.

“The only thing we’re really concerned about for Everson has nothing to do with football, it’s about him getting better,” said Viking Coach Mike Zimmer on Sept. 25.

The NFL launched a total wellness initiative for active and retired players and coaches in 2012.

It includes a 24/7 confidential crisis resource, and the league reports licensed mental health care practitioners lead discussions about mental well-being with each club.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says resources and support are crucial in the workplace.

“Mental illness impacts so many people,” said Sue Abderholden, NAMI executive director. “I think that the stress levels in many jobs today are very high leading to, frankly, more crisis.”

Abderholden says it’s important to have a policy and to be transparent about mental health benefits.

“Do you have any type of protocol if someone is having a mental health crisis? Do you have the number of the local mental health crisis team? Do you have the suicide hotline numbers? The more you put information out there, the more comfortable people are talking about it,” Abderholden said.

Her office offers accommodations: flexible work hours, noise cancelling headphones, and a quiet room for escape. She points to companies Best Buy and Ernst & Young taking a proactive approach to mental health.

The message is front and center in the Best Buy corporate cafeteria.

“We’re making a lot of investments in this area,” said Jeff Haydock, vice president of communications.

Haydock said the focus has to be on the whole being of each of their 125,000 employees.

“They’re our biggest asset, and so their well-being is our priority and more so now than ever,” Haydock said. “Mental health is a part of that, so educating employees, educating managers on the signs and having the right conversations and knowing how to have those conversations.”

Ernst & Young started EY Assist — a 1-800 number — two decades ago. It expanded to offer other services in 2015.

“That has evolved into us being encouraging and more proactive about destigmatizing mental health,” said Michael Halloran, EY partner.

Since then, the company has seen a 30 percent increase in people utilizing the resource. A monthly newsletter touches on mental health topics, the company brings in speakers quarterly and they follow an awareness outline.

“One you should notice, two you should ask, three you should listen and four you should act,” Halloran said. “The stress of a high-performing environment — we need to better support our people, we need to encourage our people to seek assistance as they need.”

Abderholden says placing an emphasis on mental health will lead to higher productivity and a healthier workplace.

“You want to keep employees that you’ve trained, that you’ve invested in, and so really looking at their mental health in the workplace is extremely important for the whole company and for employee retention,” Abderholden said.

There are a number of workplace mental health resources available. NAMI lists resources on their website.


  • NAMI Minnesota: 651-645-2948
  • The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Line in Twin Cities Metro area:

  • Anoka: 763-755-3801
  • Carver/Scott: 952-442-7601
  • Dakota: 952-891-7171
  • Washington: 651-777-5222
  • Hennepin Adult: 612-596-1223
  • Hennepin Child: 612-348-2233
  • Ramsey Adult: 651-266-7900
  • Ramsey Child: 651-266-7878
  • Cell phone crisis number: **CRISIS (**274747) in seven-country metro or text MN to 741741

Jennifer Mayerle


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