Supporting Positive Mental Health – The Reality

“There’s no such thing as work-life balance, there is just life.” Gin Lalli, neuroscientist and mental health therapist kicked off the round table discussion aimed at sharing thoughts, challenges and ideas concerning mental health in the workplace. There was an extremely varied cross section of industry leaders in attendance, clearly an action taking group of well-informed people with a serious commitment to supporting employees and making change. 
Gin provided a simple explanation of how the brain functions during stress and how anxiety, depression and anger can be normalised to an extent and gave some thought provoking quotes and statistics on how many people feel they are not coping. The emphasis though was on bridging the gap between employers and employees…

Our top three takeaways:

  • The importance of investing in our own health cannot be underestimated. Employers have a responsibility to employees however individuals also have a responsibility to take positive action themselves. 
  • Managers need adequate support to deal with employees’ mental health challenges. (Further conversations need to happen to explore what good support would look like, perhaps some education required on what mental health means too.)
  • Culture and leadership play a hugely important role in opening up the conversation and taking appropriate action around mental health issues in the workplace. Small, cost effective changes in the workplace can make a huge difference and lead to preventative action.  

Our top five ideas for employers:

  • Creating an environment where employees have the opportunity for feelings to be heard. An idea would be to have regular ‘pulse’ surveys, an example of Trickle was given.
  • Referrals to occupational health as soon as issues in relation to mental health are raised. (The role of occupational health referrals was discussed, how this can be written into employment contracts to safeguard all parties. It was noted that there had been a varied experience of OH professionals and this subject may be something to delve into further in the future.)
  • Moving meetings from sitting around a board table to walking in the fresh air. 
  • Creating a healthy physical working environment. Examples included; removing unhealthy snacks and fizzy juice from vending machines; offering office yoga classes; encouraging lunches away from desks; making useful informative resources available (recommended book: This Book could Help: The Men’s Headspace Manual).
  • Taking the discussion around mental health into the workplace regularly, asking employees to share their perspectives, experiences and suggest ideas.

All organisations are different and mental health is a vast, poorly understood subject. It is difficult to produce a specific set of guidelines for this but open communication with a clear insight into the individuals and their organisation is key. 

Overall, a sense of capability and optimism remained as we left this discussion, with an enthusiasm to take this forward. We can achieve this through further open dialogue, drawing on different areas of expertise and sharing experiences. 

“If you’ve ever felt depressed, anxious, or angry, congratulations your brain is working.” Gin Lalli  

We’d love to hear your perspective on this topic, is there anything in your organisation which is effective in supporting positive mental health? What else needs to happen?   

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