As Time to Talk Day approaches Mental Health once again becomes the focus area for all of us to raise awareness on a topic that touches so many lives in different ways. Obviously, one day of awareness coupled with increased media headlines is never going to be enough to bring real change, but the actions of people within organisations will.
What massively helps is having a positive mental wellbeing culture that is top-down, bottom-up and inside out. A positive wellbeing culture, after all, is what acts as the layer that keeps people thriving emotionally within their environment.
The danger for organisations, of course, is that their approach can often become a tick box exercise as opposed to a deep and meaningful one that drives real change.
From working with over 1,500 businesses at Health@Work, we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly regarding implementing a mental health culture that really limits the risks of employees developing mental health issues.
The steps below are well worth your consideration:
Step 1: Self Awareness.
The first part of change is self-awareness. Being honest and asking yourself, “What do we do?” individually and as an organisation to promote positive mental wellbeing is a great start. You might be surprised by how a simple list of what you do and what you don’t do can elicit great starting points.
For example, have you assessed the mental wellbeing of your workforce using the Warwick – Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale or are you signposting individual to tools such as the Mood – Self Assessment from the NHS? It is very hard to know what the next step should be unless you self-assess where are you now. It can often be the catalyst to take the first step to making a real difference in personal and organisational wellbeing.
Step 2: Protect it.
Once you or your organisation decides to implement an intervention that you feel will have a positive impact on mental wellbeing – be it walking every day, meditating or creating a time in meetings to discuss any challenging issues – protect that slot.
Time is our most valuable currency. When it’s gone it’s gone! It’s vitally important that the “time” allocated to taking an action that acts as a preventative measure is protected so that it’s not pushed to the bottom of the pile when things get busy. Think of it as a contractual agreement that can’t be broken, an investment now that will pay dividends in the future. Don’t let anything else get in the way of actions that will keep your mental health, or that of your colleagues, on an upward path.
Step 3: Make honesty a norm.
One of the main issues today is that mental health has developed a stigma whereby coming out and discussing mental health issues doesn’t feel natural to people. Although considerable work is being done to change this perception, we need more people saying, “it’s okay to talk”. What better way to make this a social norm than reminding friends, work colleagues and yourself that asking for support is something that is brave and not frowned upon. You wouldn’t be expected to take the stairs instead of the lift if you sprained your ankle, would you? Nor should this be the case if you need some psychological support.
Mental health is health. It’s not going anywhere and no awareness day on its own is ever going to make a difference unless we focus on it daily both individually and within the workplace. If you would like a resource pack for your workplace that walks you through how to put in preventable measures to champion a positive mental health culture just download our Mental Health Support Pack or have a look at our wellbeing training.