“We’re at a mental health tipping point” — addressing current mental health concerns in the workplace and what to do about it
It would be no surprise to hear that the most common request for support I’ve had from clients is based around mental health at the moment.
Since the 2020 pandemic broke out, we have reached another point of critical mass, with pandemic-like proportions — mental health — which has resulted from a range of contributing factors, including increased isolation, uncertainty, financial loss and a lack of control in circumstances.
On 5 August this year, Lifeline had its busiest day of calls in its entire history.
A significant rise in the use of mental health support services has been recorded since the outbreak of COVID-19. Average scores on GP-based psychological tests, used to monitor for mental health symptoms have risen.
This month we will be sharing a series of blogs around the worsening mental health crisis and what you can do as a business owner to build resilience across your team and protect yourself against the effects of this current environment.
Please don’t think we’re saying that a few resilience strategies is all you need to equip yourself against stressful environments and risk factors of mental illness.
Mental health is, and always will be influenced by a complex balance and interrelations of external triggers, biological makeup, genetic predispositions, family dynamics, past history and childhood (including traumatic events) and many, many other factors.
However, in stressful environments or when exposed to ongoing world events that seem uncontrollable (like a pandemic), these factors can be either triggered or alleviated based on a few things.
So how do we help instead of hinder when everything seems beyond our control?
1. Social support
Psychologist and Director of Healthy Minds, Dr Tom Nehmy says one of the most significant evidence-based preventions against developing mental health issues is social support and positive ‘primary relationships’.
“Primary relationships refer to the people you live with, spend most of your time with (such as a work day), and/or who are ‘closest’ to you in an emotional sense — for better or worse,” he says.
“Relationships provide a huge amount of context to our experiences of life and influence our wellbeing greatly. If the relationships we have with those closest to us are healthy, encouraging and supportive, they will enhance our wellbeing; if not, they will detract from it.”
By ensuring employees have adequate social support networks and your culture encourages positive relationships, this can enact as a preventative against mental health challenges.
2. Early intervention
The best kind of intervention is prevention.
Dr Nehmy identified early on in his career that ‘psychological immunisation’ prior to a condition developing could be a promising possibility.
“If teaching certain ‘healthy’ skills seems to help people in therapy no matter what their type of psychological distress – would it be possible to immunise people against developing them in the first place?”
So how does this apply to the workplace? The answer lies within education.
By offering programs, webinars, seminars and training in emotional wellbeing and resilience, this can equip and upskill staff with the tools they need to prevent mental health challenges later down the track.
3. Building an environment of psychological safety
Psychological safety at work refers to how safe someone feels to voice their opinions, thoughts and feelings without the fear of repercussion, being ostracized or ridiculed.
It also refers to how supported someone feels in the event of making a mistake or in the event of a failure.
A safe psychological workplace ensures everyone feels included, the need to learn and grow is satisfied, everyone feels they can make meaningful contributions and the ability to challenge someone’s thinking is welcomed.
Image credit: Center for Creative Leadership
These examples are only scratching the surface of what can be done to promote positive wellbeing in the workplace.
Click here to see a much broader list of evidence-based preventative strategies you can use to guide your thinking when developing an Employer Mental Health Prevention Plan (more to come on this in future blogs).
If you’d like to take action right away on supporting your team through challenging times, you can download our mental health tool kit below.
A comprehensive selection of guides, checklists and tools you can use as a manager or business owner to:
✔ Support optimum wellbeing during challenging times
✔ Quickly identify the warning signs of poor mental health in your team
✔ Empower team members to develop their own self-care plans
✔ Guide and encourage team members to prioritise their mental health and wellbeing, with interactive exercises based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) methods