Mental Health Is Not Optional
by Alex Amos, Executive Director, The Edge
Downward facing dog.
If the 20 year old version of me could see what the 50 year old version gets up to…
But most of us do it. Or something similar. Anything to keep our bodies active and healthy.
And our minds.
We all need to do some activity that helps us be resilient to the barrage of work demands, the pressure of keeping up with the Jones’s on social media or the brain melting complexities of the Backstop.
Because mental health isn’t optional. You can’t ‘unsubscribe’ just because you’ve clocked into work or because you ‘don’t have the time’ to not be okay.
We’ve made massive strides with regards to our attitudes around mental health. In the past 60 years alone, we’ve moved from seeing lobotomies and electroconvulsive therapy as acceptable treatments to having Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace – but we still have a long way to go.
Today we are fairly comfortable talking to our friends and family about how we feel and letting them know if we’re struggling. But arguably, we spend more time with our colleagues – so why is it we don’t feel comfortable talking about this at work?
The World Health Organisation defines good mental health as being ‘a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of lie, can work productively and fruitfully and can make a contribution to her or his community.’
It’s no small thing that the WHO recognises the importance of people being able to ‘work productively,’ because it firms up what most of us already know: there is a clear overlap when it comes to mental health and work. It’s not something that can be checked out of during working hours.
This is a growing issue. Following an independent review of mental health in the workplace, commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017, Farmer and Stevenson produced a report entitled, ‘Thriving to Work’. The study details the current state of the workplace and suggests how businesses can improve on areas where their support is lacking.
Poor mental health costs the public sector anywhere between £33bn and £42bn a year.
Mental health is a human issue. It’s a personal and emotional issue. People on the whole are very empathetic beings – we naturally want to bond and help one another.
However, if we don’t know what to say or don’t understand what a person’s going through, it’s incredibly hard to be supportive. This is part of the issue when it comes to tackling the stigma of mental health.
Ideally, speaking about mental health problems should be an intrinsic part of the culture of your workplace.
Employers have a key role to play in supporting staff to maintain their mental wellbeing. Regular supervision or catch-up meetings can help managers recognise symptoms such as stress, anxiety, paranoia or depression. It is also worth spending time in meetings to discuss your employees’ wellbeing.
Film is a great way of giving people insight and putting people in each other’s shoes. If done correctly, it can help de-medicalise the conversations around mental health and make these discussions regular and every day.
Films can be used in mental health awareness training. It’s critical that managers feel confident in having conversations about mental health with their line reports. Increasing their capability to spot signs and symptoms in their team, and feel confident in discussing this with those who are struggling will help stop problems before they become more challenging.
Film is a visual and emotional medium. It sticks in our minds and affects the way we see the world. Because of that, it’s incredibly useful in affecting behaviour change.
Even the superhuman amongst us need to talk:
I’m glad to say more and more businesses are addressing this. Realising that mental health issues need to be front and centre – not just because it makes good business sense and avoids absenteeism/presenteeism, but because we all need to recognise what’s important in life.
One of the reasons why some of us Edgie’s started doing morning yoga.
Aaaaaah. Child’s pose.