The CARES UP Model

Step One - Step UP

Step UP includes action for leaders in the organization as well as department members, natural leaders, champions or others that want to support agency leadership in these efforts.


As leaders of your organization, begin with the first step of implementing the CARES UP Model, aptly named “Step UP.” This means committing to changing the conversation about first responder mental health. You are committing to creating an action plan and taking concrete steps aimed at supporting the wellness of your employees.

The research is clear: the workplace can be a source of toxic stress, but it can also be an engine for mental wellness, providing a sense of purpose and connection to others. The guidance, resources, and tools of this model are designed to help you lead your employees in doing this challenging but rewarding work.

Whether you are starting a mental health program at your organization or already have one in place, you must have a culture of open communication. Remember, mental wellness is just as important as physical wellness. Make sure to encourage an environment that supports employees reaching out for help in the workplace.

The United States Surgeon General’s 2022 Framework For Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being, highlights the impact of the workplace in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic (see Figure X below). It shows the need for supervisors to be a resource to their staff when discussing mental health.

According to the report:

  • 76% of U.S. workers in a 2021 survey reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition (anxiety, depression), an increase of 17% in just two years.
  • 81% of workers reported that they will be looking for a workplace that supports mental health in the future.
  • 84% of respondents reported at least one workplace factor that had a negative impact on their mental health.

To create change, it helps to have a workplace environment of acceptance in diversity and inclusion of all staff members as well as setting an atmosphere for staff to be comfortable having conversations about mental health, In fact, some research suggests having these conversations is a protective factor for mental health challenges.1  Building a culture of wellness that emphasizes the importance of mental health, resilience and demonstrates support for those in need regardless of one’s race, ethnicity, station in the organization or any other protected class, without the fear of disciplinary action, in the goal. This step is about leadership commitment to that goal.

Team Members

If you want to influence decisions makers to improve suicide prevention and mental health supports, start by sharing the resources below. the report highlights what is needed to create a workplace that supports strong mental health and well-being in the workplace.

Review the Five Essentials in the United State Surgeon General’s 2022 Framework For Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being.

Additional Resources to help get buy-in from other key leaders are listed below:

Figure X:The United States Surgeon General’s Five Essentials for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being

Five essentials for workplace mental health & well-being. These are Protection from Harm, Connection and Community, Work-Life Harmony, Mattering at Work, and Opportunity for Growth

Move to the next step in the CARES UP Model:


1. Office of the Surgeon General (2022). “The US Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being.” Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.