"For most of these employees, this was their first and only time they have experienced the loss of their job and being laid off," Elhart wrote in an email. "They were going to question their self-esteem, their worthiness, their confidence and more."
Many who received the videos responded with requests for additional information and resources to help them through the experience, he said.
Elhart was positioned to help after experiencing a traumatic loss in his family.
In 2015, he adopted a program called Be Nice at his dealerships in honor of his brother, Wayne Elhart, who died by suicide in March of that year.
Be Nice — from the words notice, invite, challenge and empower — was created by the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan; Elhart is now on the organization's board of directors. The program has been used in schools, businesses and faith communities in Michigan, and the foundation's goal is to take it national by 2023.
The experience of losing Wayne to suicide inspired Jeff Elhart to try to help others facing mental health struggles. The brothers were partners in the dealership group until 2010 when Jeff bought out Wayne so he could retire. The pair experienced the termination of their Chrysler and Dodge franchises in 2009 during the Great Recession.
The reason for Elhart's mission was cemented in the summer of 2016 with the discovery of a note from Wayne asking his family to help fight mental illness and depression.
"It was great to see the letter, and I was happy that we were well on our way of starting to honor his wishes," Elhart said.
At Elhart Auto, a dealership campus representing GMC, Hyundai, Genesis, Nissan and Kia, every employee is required to complete Be Nice training. The group sold 2,500 new and used vehicles in 2019.
Monthly staff meetings are held to discuss how people are using the program's strategy and to encourage and hold employees accountable for noticing the behavioral changes of those around them.
"Once you bring it to the workplace, it's amazing how employees open up and tell their own stories," Elhart said.