Background Although the COVID-19 pandemic exposes frontline caregivers to severe prolonged stresses and trauma, there has been little clarity on how healthcare organisations can structure support to address these mental health needs. This article translates organisational scholarship on professionals working in organisations to elucidate why traditional approaches to supporting employee mental health, which often ask employees to seek assistance from centralised resources that separate mental health personnel from frontline units, may be insufficient under crisis conditions. We identify a critical but often overlooked aspect of employee mental health support: how frontline professionals respond to mental health services. In high-risk, high-pressure fields, frontline professionals may perceive mental health support as coming at the expense of urgent frontline work goals (ie, patient care) and as clashing with their central professional identities (ie, as expert, self-reliant ironmen/women). Findings To address these pervasive goal and identity conflicts in professional organisations, we translate the results of a multiyear research study examining the US Army’s efforts to transform its mental health support during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We highlight parallels between providing support to frontline military units and frontline healthcare units during COVID-19 and surface implications for structuring mental health supports during a crisis. We describe how an intentional organisational design used by the US Army that assigned specific mental health personnel to frontline units helped to mitigate professional goal and identity conflicts by creating personalised relationships and contextualising mental health offerings. Conclusion Addressing frontline caregivers’ mental health needs is a vital part of health delivery organisations’ response to COVID-19, but without thoughtful organisational design, well-intentioned efforts may fall short. An approach that assigns individual mental health personnel to support specific frontline units may be particularly promising.