Why we need to start thinking of Mental health as Health. Period.
Image source: Adobe Stock
The majority of today’s adult population spends at least one-third of their lives at work, even as remote work becomes increasingly common, full-time jobs inevitably shape a person’s health habits, which can either help or hinder performance. Employers play an important role and have a significant stake in helping to shape their employees’ physical and mental health habits.
Essentially a company's value is its people, the service or product they provide to the outside world is the thing they sell, but the real value comes from the culture within the organisation. So if the value is in our people then we should be taking special care of the brilliant minds that hold our organisations together.
The cost of mental illness
People with a diagnosed mental health problem have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviour, and the stigma associated with discussing mental health problems often means many people avoid seeking help resulting in mental health conditions remaining undiagnosed.
“My father was suicidal at one point in my teenage-hood (I remember it being a 'dark time'), but he and so many others are from a generation that doesn't talk about mental health or address it.” - Sam Gibson-Massey, Founder & CEO of Hope Platform
For many people, the notion of talking to another human, sharing a vulnerability or admitting a problem is a barrier in itself; Here technology could provide a medium for delivering mental health services remotely and on a wide scale.
It should be:
Affordable and accessible
Appropriate for a wide group of individuals with varying ages, languages, and digital literacy
Moving Forward with Digital Mental Health
The 2020 pandemic has changed mindsets and paved the way for virtual care all over the world. Even though the sustainability of this transformation has not yet been evidenced, we do see a greater acceptance of the digital format in physical as well as mental healthcare.
For this to stick and be sustainable, we need data-safe and user-friendly digital solutions targeting unmet needs, training of healthcare professionals, clinical guidance around implementation and delivery, as well as patient partnerships in digital service design.
“We want to make healthcare available to anyone, no matter what their background. Sometimes you don't need a therapist, you just need 'something' to get you through whatever it is you're going through” - Sam Gibson-Massey, Founder & CEO of Hope Platform
Mental health affects us all and there is no doubt that digital mental healthcare can make a valuable contribution to improving the lives of people who are experiencing mental illness, and in turn the people around them. The benefits of digital mental health are profound, but can only be achieved if digital tools are trusted and used by both patients and clinicians.
Many business leaders assume an employee's mental health is none of their business. But the way employees think, feel, and behave impacts everything from productivity and communication to their ability to maintain safety in the workplace. Helping employees improve their mental health could be one of the most important steps an employer can take to improve an individual's well-being, as well as the health of the entire organisation.
Creating and maintaining a healthy work environment requires a winning strategy. Here are some best practices a company can follow to start transforming their organisation's culture for the better.
1. View Investing in mental health as Investing in Your Business, good mental health boosts productivity, employees will take less sick days, they will also have better interactions among themselves and with customers. Providing your employees with better healthcare may sound counter-intuitive at first, however, investing more money upfront will lead to less spending over time.
2. Promote a work/life balance, make sure the number of hours employees spend at work is balanced with an equal number of hours spent in meaningful relaxation. Healthy human beings have a balance and know when they need to take a break, support their choices.
3. Proactively support mental health to prevent burnout, create work environments that promote physical activity throughout the workday,, encourage social support and respect within and among work teams, enforce reasonable work hours, set reasonable and realistic expectations and help assess the workload.
4. Encourage employees to use time off, employees who take time off come to work with a positive mindset and are charged to take on challenges, but do not incentivise employees to bank their days off and get paid for them at the end of the fiscal year, instead ‘use them or lose them’ method will force employees to use their days off and in the end both they and the business will be better off!
5. Harness the potential of technology for mental healthcare, digital technologies have the potential to transform mental healthcare by connecting patients, services, and health data in new ways. There are many tools and apps out there for organisations and individuals that can provide support.
How can people help?
Mental health takes compassion and work, we have to approach mental health from a very empathetic point of view.
“The next person you speak with today, ask them, genuinely ask them how they are. And tell them that if they ever need help, you will help them. If we all did this, we would all feel incredibly supported” - Sam Gibson-Massey, Founder & CEO of Hope Platform
As a start:
Educate yourself about mental illness. It’s not uncommon for people to misunderstand mental illness. Learn more about it and share what you learn.
Talk with everyone you know. Ask family, friends and coworkers how they’re doing and really listen to the answers.
Open up about your experience. If you’ve struggled or are struggling with mental illness, share your story.
It will take many technology startups, communities and people to solve the world mental health crisis..and it won’t happen quickly, because the problem is accelerating faster than we can find solutions. It’s going to take the collective, but as long as we’re mindfully thinking of each other, and helping each other every day to feel better, then we can slowly start to shift the mental health crisis.
Watch or listen to the dialogue “Healthy Work Environments” on YouTube and Spotify