New York, NY – I am driving northbound with fresh eyes after taking a class I will talk more about in a later article. I am thinking about this class and all those who taught and attended it. But moreover, I am thinking about the subjects that it covered; the history of mental health in the workforce, how far we’ve come — and, of course, how much further we need to go.

Ben Kimmel.

I am closing in on my hometown in New York, but still thinking about the week behind me. I am thinking about the people I met and how a small window of opportunity can open up to an entirely new level of understanding.

The class was made up of people from all over the country. All different races and cultures were present. In short, the crowd was diverse and made up of union representatives. I met people who spoke differently and came from different backgrounds. We all had different cultures and beliefs. Regardless of any of these differences, however, we were found ourselves in a place united in a common purpose: learn how to help people in the workplace who are struggling.

We were there to talk about mental health. We were there to talk about the impact of different crises impacting our country. We talked about drinking and drug abuse disorders. We talked about depression and anxiety. We discussed the necessity of proper healthcare and how important it is to understand our medical insurance.  We covered the gamut; including suicide and the staggering numbers of deaths that have increased since the start of the pandemic.

There are times, when I hear stories from someone who may live on the other side of the country, and yet our similarities are astonishing. There are also times in my life when I am reminded of the smallness of my size and the hugeness of the world around me. That was one of those times.  

I am not new to the subjects we covered in that class. To be clear, this is more than a report of people gathering together in a room to talk about health and wellness in the workplace. This is about more than emotional and mental challenges, sobriety and recovery. This is written in dedication to all those who are not forgotten or forsaken. This is a testament — proof that, in fact, there are good people in the world. 

I am writing this to acknowledge that, along with the power of collective bargaining, union leaders are taking a proactive approach to wellness in the workplace. The old saying is often true: “It’s time to take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth.” I say this because as much as I thought I knew about mental health and addiction — I realize that I have so much more to learn.

I spent the past week learning about Emergency Assistance Programs (EAP) and Member Assistance Programs (MAP). Realizing our commonality is certainly lifesaving, but our differences can be lifesaving, too — because together, we can learn so much from each other.

It’s true, there are some great people in this world. I can’t tell you how many great people there are, but I can definitely say that I met around 35 of them last week. And like I said, my eyes are now wide open. As a matter of fact, my ears are too.

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as an Author, Writer on, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Addiction and Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate.  Ben can be reached at



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