Where is the spotlight shining on mental health in 2023?

Published by Kelly Wright on

Where is the spotlight shining on mental health in 2023?

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“Can you write a blog on mental health?”

Annie, our Digital Marketing Manager wrote in the Teams chat.

“Yeah, no problem.” I chirped back.

Except, as it turned out, it was a bit of a problem. Mental health is now such a broad, and widely discussed, topic in the media that I honestly didn’t know where to start. Still, as writer’s block is an occupational hazard, I did what I usually do – go back to basics to understand what it is and why it’s important.

So, let’s kick this off with a good old-fashioned definition or two. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of wellbeing in which someone realises their abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community”.

Is it just me, or does that sound like someone who is seriously excelling at this thing called life? I’m not sure a definition is supposed to give you performance anxiety! I wonder how many of us feel that a good mental health day is when we reach bedtime without completely losing it at a family member/a colleague/the dog/that stranger that didn’t hold the door for you, etc, etc, etc?

Anyway, moving on…

The NHS definition expands on wellbeing as: “emotional, psychological, and social” adding “Our mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. It also impacts on how we cope, interact and form relationships with others, as well as our daily functioning”.

Ok, daily functioning I can get on board with.

So, the definitions tell us that we all have mental health and, wherever we go, it goes too. It’s ever-present and affects everything we do.

person with backpack looking at lake and landscape

A bag for life?

We often talk negatively about people having “emotional baggage”, but I think that’s unfair, as we all carry our life experiences around with us – good and bad, major and minor. We wouldn’t be who we are without this stuff.

I rather like the idea that each one of us carries this life stuff in a bag. Imagine it’s a backpack. You wear it all the time. Never take it off. Ever!

Amongst all the life stuff are tools you have gathered from your experiences to help you survive and hopefully thrive. You dip into your backpack all day, every day. For example:

  • Losing patience sitting in traffic? You rummage around for the ‘don’t use rude words, put the radio on and sing very loudly’ tool.
  • Health concern? You delve in to grab the ‘don’t Google it, call the GP and make an appointment’ tool.
  • Feeling nervous about a presentation? Your trusty ‘breathing techniques’ tool is well oiled and ready to calm you down.

Some tools are rusty, buried under others and unused for some time. Some are kept pristine, reserved for very specific events. Some still require a manual, no matter how many times you pull them out of your bag, and some tools are broken or missing. You may not even realise you don’t have what you need until you’re knee deep in a situation and that’s when you might need help.

You’re not alone.

According to Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), 792 million people are affected by mental health issues worldwide. If you’re working, it’s likely that you may need some mental health support at some point in your working life.

However, many of us avoid or shrug off support. As much as mental health is talked about more freely these days, it can still be very hard to talk about it or reach out.

So, if issues arise at work, what can companies do to support their employees? What can managers do to support their people? And how can employees be there for each other?

team support hand on shoulder for mental health

It’s the small things.

While the topic of mental health itself can be daunting in its size and complexity, I am reminded that even the smallest of actions make a difference in the moments that matter.

When working with a client to help their leaders foster an environment of allyship within their teams and the organisation, BAD created a short video story that plays, then replays, a scene in a ‘sliding doors’ moment. We first see a team leader walking past a team member who we have seen is struggling, and the impact this has. As the story replays, we get to see and feel the difference that the leader makes to the same team member just by stopping and having a chat.

As the learning continues, there are three simple action-oriented boosts that encourage the learner to:

  1. Share their story, by talking about their life experiences.
  2. Take 15 minutes, by scheduling regular time to catch up.
  3. Own their education, by learning one new thing each month.

Whilst this experience is aimed at leaders, we can all take this approach, regardless of rank or influence. Recognising when someone may need help, treating them with empathy, making an effort to understand their lived experiences and perspectives, and providing them with support, helps to build a workplace that enables people to be their authentic selves.

Psychological safety at work is as important as knowing where the emergency exits are.

According to MHFA, almost a third of managers they surveyed said that more support and training from their employer would assist them in creating a team in which everyone feels safe to bring their whole self to work.

In the UK, there is some great advice on how to tackle mental health at work. If you’re thinking of providing more mental health support within your organisation, we’d love to help. Contact us.

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