Today we come together to celebrate World Mental Health Day 2017 and unsurprisingly this years’ theme is mental health in the workplace. I say unsurprisingly because the media attention, celebrity stories, mental health in the workplace launches/conferences and organisational pledges to improve mental health at work has boomed in recent years. I believe this marks the beginning of a very exciting journey.
Despite clear evidence that there can be no health without mental health, there is nowhere in the world where mental health enjoys parity with physical health in national policies. Although 1 in 5 employees in the workplace experience a mental health condition and there is a huge business case for companies to address this, too often mental health is a taboo in organisations. Moreover, only 7% of health budgets are allocated to addressing mental health in the workplace – It is most definitely time for change.
King’s College London’s MSc in Organisational Psychiatry and Psychology is the only course in the UK to include up-to-date knowledge of Psychiatry and Psychology when applied to work and organisational behaviour. If you are on this course then you have a fantastic year ahead! I have now completed this masters which has equipped me with a theoretical, practical and applied approach to this very important topic. Key areas of study included learning to diagnose mental health disorders, studying emotional resilience, job crafting, organisational culture and the implementation of change interventions. I have studied different facets of wellbeing and the development of this concept over time, including ‘buzz-words’ in organisations such as ‘Flourishing’, ‘Resilience’ and ‘Flow’.
It is time to talk about mental health and wellbeing and break the culture of silence in the workplace. This may be as simple as making sure employees are encouraged to ask each other ‘How are you?’ or may include an organisational gesture demonstrating commitment to mental health at work, such as signing the Time to Change Pledge. Change starts with conversation and this then forms a platform for understanding about the needs of an organisation. Employees can be trained to improve basic mental health literacy, mental health champions may spread the word throughout departments or changing the physical space in organisations may enhance communication. Every organisation is different but every organisation must assess mental health at work, act accordingly, engage relevant stakeholders and address anticipated resistance.
Although it is essential safeguards are in place to improve the lives of those with mental health problems, organisations and their employees have the power to prevent mental health disrupting lives in the first place. Prevention of mental health deterioration is favourable to crisis point being reached. The positive psychology movement necessitates movement away from a view that focuses on ‘fixing’ mental health problems and towards a preventative approach to increase wellbeing, awareness of mental health and support.
A take home message from this post is to be an an advocate of this message, which transcends applicability to full-time workplaces and is relevant to you. Strike up a conversation with your fellow students, family, friends or assess how mental health is acknowledged in your part-time job. The more people who are aware and have a positive mindset regarding mental health, the closer we are to improving workplace wellbeing and improving the lives of those we love around us.
If you would like to discuss any of this with me then tag me in a post on the IoPPN Facebook group, or why not start raising awareness now and get tweeting #WorldMentalHealthDay?
Wishing you all the best in your studies!
Here are a few websites you may find interesting: