Today is World Mental Health Day – an annual date dedicated to promoting mental health awareness and education, as well as the end of social stigma. It’s a conversation that is desperately needed across the globe, with statistics showing that one in four adults and one in ten children will affected by a mental illness.
Here in the UK, just this week the Prime Minister announced that a specific suicide prevention minister has been appointed, who will be joining the government as part of the first-ever global mental health summit in London today.
To mark this incredibly important occasion ourselves, we headed to WeWork Holborn to start the morning with an inspiring breakfast discussion; “A Discussion: Wellness + Mental Health in the Workplace”. The panel was lead by Poppy Jamie, founder of the Happy Not Perfect App, who was joined by WeWork’s CMO, Geraldine Calpin, Mindset and Business Coach Suzy Ashworth and Business Psychologist, Anisa Kurti.
Although many might not see mental health support as a priority when deciding on a place of employment, it’s a crucial point to consider. Most of us spend more time at work than we do with our own families, so we need to make sure we look after our wellbeing in every sense of the word. After all, when companies prioritise mental wellbeing, it’s in their interests. The mental health charity, Mind, states that more than one in five (21 per cent) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them, and 42 per cent had even considered resigning.
Much of the engaging discussion across the panel related to the impact of technology and our 24/7 digital culture, causing a constant state of high-stress in our body and minds. As Poppy pointed out, “we understand that technology requires an off switch, that we need to charge our phones up, otherwise they will die, but yet we never really consider the same philosophy is required for ourselves. That we need to recharge and rest and actually we get more done by doing so.”
Ironically, many of us feel like in order to be ‘successful’ in modern workplaces, we have to be first to answer every email or request, always at the end of our phones no matter what time it is. And yet, this has a hugely amaging impact on not only our overall happiness, but also our productivity and ability to perform well.
So, what can organisations do to help create a more positive culture surrounding mental health and wellbeing?
According to Anisa, “the most basic thing all organisations can do is breaking down the stigma that is attached to mental health and talking about your emotions. Leaders need to be proactively talking about mental health & their own experiences so that it becomes acceptable to talk about it.”. Offering flexibility was also a key suggestion – whether that’s encouraging employees to switch off after certain hours or to exercise during their breaks. Within reason, it’s about giving them the opportunity to get the job done in a way that suits their mental health and other needs best.
But what about advice for people who aren’t in the position to make structural changes to the companies they work within? What can we do as individuals to improve our daily wellbeing at work?
Suzy suggested that “one of the most powerful questions that we can be asking ourselves every single morning is how do I feel right now, and how do I want to feel. We spend so much time in our heads, thinking about what we are thinking, that we rarely get out our heads.” It's a minor but powerful mindset switch. Check in with yourself and try to become more conscious of your emotions. Ask yourself how you feel, on a scale of 1-10. If you’re a 3, what small steps can you take to get yourself to a 6? It's all about taking small steps to improve your general wellbeing, not about always feeling like a perfect 10.
Mental health problems are NOT— Matt Haig (@matthaig1) 10 October 2018
- first world problems
- solved by pulling yourself together
- less real than other heath issues
- a result of talking
- character flaws
- taken as seriously as they should be#WorldMentalHealthDay
It was importantly pointed out, that although these surface level conversations are important, there is far more that needs to be done so that employers are best supporting people with more stigmatised mental health illnesses, such as Bipolar or Schizophrenia. Deepening the mental health conversation and educating organisations is crucial, in order to hopefully make the workplace a more supportive place for all people to thrive, no matter their circumstances.
Do you still feel like there is a stigma to talk about mental health in your workplace? What steps do you take on a daily basis to improve your mental wellbeing? Send us a message on social media or let us know in the comments below.