World Mental Health Day…Not Just A Day

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Can we compete with Ice Cream For Breakfast Day, Malbec Day, National Biscuit Day and, not to be missed, National Gummi Worm Day?

10th October is World Mental Health day. The theme for this year, as set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is ‘making mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority.’

Sounds good so far. 

It’s not just for a day though…is it? 

You could be forgiven for thinking so. After all when you look at the global calendar of events and initiatives World Mental Health Day is just one day amongst many. For example, Ice Cream For Breakfast Day (Feb 6th in case you are interested), Malbec Day (April 17th Claire Bicknell…just saying) National Biscuit Day and, not to be missed, National Gummi Worm Day on July 13th.

In fact the whole of October is Black History Month and World Mental Health Day is immediately followed by National Coming Out Day. These are all worthy causes that deserve their day or month in the spotlight to raise awareness. The challenge is that there is an endless, not always worthy, conveyor belt of causes competing for air time. Many of these causes will reflect issues that affect employees. It is not for the HR department to decide whether diversity is more important than menopause,and so it is understandable that a busy HR manager may feel that they need to pay attention to all at the expense of really paying attention.

Why Pay Attention To Mental Health?

A recent study (March 22) from London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) says that mental health problems cost the UK economy at least £117.9 billion annually and is equivalent to around 5 percent of the UK’s GDP.

That is attention grabbing enough. Wrapped up in that statistic are many detailed issues such as stress, depression and presenteeism. Presenteeism is where we present for work even though we are unfit to work. This worsens reduced productivity and increases mistakes to such a point that a report in 2009 by Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health suggested that it costs employers 1.5 times as much as absence. With working from home becoming more common presenteeism is on the increase.

The news is not all bad though. There have been various studies over time about investment in mental health interventions and whether they return anything to a business. Figures vary but range from £5 returned for every £1 invested to £15.80 in long term savings for every £1 invested in a programme. This issue affects every business. If you are not particularly concerned about your team’s wellbeing you may still wish to gain the competitive edge that having mentally healthy teams will give you. 

An initiative to suit every budget

I don’t know about you but when I was working in a large organisation juggling competing priorities the idea of an “initiative” struck fear into my heart. It brought with it meetings, planning, and a whole lot of extra work. Do not worry. There can be something to suit everyone here but remember, the more you invest the more you get out.

Here’s brief range of areas for you to consider

  • Take some time –  Genuinely caring for your team can simply cost a little time. Remember the principle of ask twice. The usual “hi, how are you today?” is more often than not met with the equally usual “I’m good. How are you?” Try not taking this at face value and asking again… “no, really, how are you?” That will often elicit a different response that may require you to listen for a while, but will show your team member you genuinely care. Short of time? Never have enough time? Remember the statistics on investment. It’s not just about money. Invest the time now, genuinely care and it will pay itself back with less time needed sorting out staff problems further down the line.
  • Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) – These are insurance backed schemes that provide backup services to employers to support employees in difficulty. They often have a range of interventions around financial health, physical health and mental health. The mental health part is often an ability to refer a team member for up to five sessions with a counsellor to  get them started on their journey back to sound mental health. These are really cost effective schemes but do focus on catching people as the fall as opposed to prevention.
  • App it – The market in mental health tech has exploded in the last 2 years. Everyone seems to be offering an app to make your employees happy (appy?). Some are simple measurement devices that just report back to base with simple data. Some are single solution orientated such as meditation apps. A few take a comprehensive approach. Try Inner Calm, which is part of the Calm People portfolio. Designed and built by experts it’s foundation is a comprehensive assessment that delivers to you an in depth report across 7 areas of your emotional health. Once you have read your report you choose which areas to develop with the variety of self development videos, articles and workbooks.
  • Workshops – This is how Calm People started out. We have delivered one off sessions, whole programmes and now regularly run lunch and learns, seminars and webinars for staff across the world. Other than one to one coaching, these are the most expensive external interventions you can employ. Again, be aware of the possible return on investment that can be given back to you. If you need a little more persuading take a look here at some case studies on our website that measure improvement in emotional health across 13 areas with three organisations 3 months after workshops were delivered.

Within that basic range of options there will be plenty of possibilities and choices for you. If we were to advise we will always say, whatever you choose to do, do it with consistency and always follow up. The more you talk about his subject he more your teams realise you do genuinely care and when that happens that magical thing called engagement improves.

So there we are. Mental Health. Competing with many other worthy areas that need attention and profile. Please forgive me for suggesting that this area of our life forms the foundations for many of the other issues we need to discuss, address and change and remember…it’s not just for a day.

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