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Why Make Mental Health Care and Well-Being a Priority for All? (World Mental Health Day 2022)

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Have you taken some time for yourself today? This article is evidence that you need to take a break and breathe. Today we join the conversation around World Mental Health Day 2022.

Diverse coworkers laughing on street before work togetherDiverse coworkers laughing on street before work togetherDiverse coworkers laughing on street before work together
Wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12% (Image source: Envato Elements)

Let's talk about mental health and the immense value it holds for individuals, teams, and organizations. 

During the first year of the pandemic, anxiety and depressive disorders increased by more than 25%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). We're facing the challenges of living and working in an almost post-pandemic world. 

Mental health is an integral component to shape the world we live in. 

This crisis is still too recent to predict the effects on wellbeing worldwide. While we adjust to these new hybrid work and life dynamics, it's crucial to increase your mental health awareness and reduce stigma.

Let's dive in and learn a bit more about the relevance of World Mental Health Day 2022. 

What Is Mental Health Day?

Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this day has the objective to:

[...] raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.

It's a global initiative promoted by WHO to remind of the relevance of mental health care for individuals, communities, and governments. It's an open call to come together and to be vocal about what needs to be done to ensure mental health and well-being for everyone. 

Mental health care. Depressed young black woman suffering from emotional burnout on couch at homeMental health care. Depressed young black woman suffering from emotional burnout on couch at homeMental health care. Depressed young black woman suffering from emotional burnout on couch at home
Stigma and discrimination are two great barriers to get the right mental health care. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Stigma and discrimination are still two great barriers for everyone to get the right care. So, it's fundamental to keep the conversation alive. That's why World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to take action individually to see changes collectively. 

State of Mental Health in the World

Mental health is more than the absence of illness. It's a part of our individual and collective health and well-being.

But mental health is commonly neglected by social systems, employee benefits, and government health care plans. Most people aren't given the care and support they need and deserve.

Support Group BackgroundSupport Group BackgroundSupport Group Background
Most people aren't provided with the care and support they need and deserve. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Economic, social, and geopolitical instability affect our mental health. There's a "tsunami of psychiatric illness" predicted by experts due to the pandemic. 

Here's some data on the current state of mental health in the world: 

Although statistics may be frightening, it is also true that change is in the making. But not all is lost. Since the pandemic, research has shown that mental health care and support went from a nice-to-have to a must-have.

Happy Smileys or Unhappy, text on asphalt roadHappy Smileys or Unhappy, text on asphalt roadHappy Smileys or Unhappy, text on asphalt road
We are starting to bridge the gap by raising awareness of mental health. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Individual and collective initiatives are starting to bridge the gap by raising awareness. We might be moving in the right direction. Here are some indicators compiled from a survey by the Harvard Business Review:

  • During the pandemic, nearly 66% of employees talked about their mental health to someone at work.
  • Mental health resources have increased since the pandemic: extra paid time off, company-wide mental health days, and mental health training.
  • Over half of those answering believed that mental health was prioritized at their company compared to previous years
  • Nearly half of the respondents believed that their company leaders were advocates for mental health at work
Mental health is an investment towards a better life and future for all. 

One of the insights offered by WHO's World mental health report says that including mental health in universal health coverage packages of essential services is vital.

There's still a lot to be done to achieve true cultural change. But we can start by breaking the stigma and acknowledging our own daily battles with mental health. 

How to Increase Accessibility to Mental Health Care?

Mental health disorders are complex and can take many forms. 

Uncertainty and isolation left an undeniable impact worldwide, as psychiatrist Valentine Raiteri points out. 

According to WHO, poor quality services, low literacy in mental health, stigma, and discrimination are some factors that stop people from seeking help. 

In her article for the Harvard Business Review, Kelly Greenwood highlights three aspects employers need to provide moving forward:

1. Culture Change

Everyone has a role to play, starting with leaders and managers. Mental health as a priority in the workplace isn't something handled only by HR. Leaders must be ready for their personal experiences with mental health. This way, they'll open up the conversation and promote an emotional safe space at work. 

2. More Sustainable Ways of Working

Four interracial smiling people in officeFour interracial smiling people in officeFour interracial smiling people in office
Employers and managers must offer more sustainable ways of working. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Providing working mode flexibility is key. Promoting autonomy, establishing boundaries and communication are also important. Other ideas might be:

  • no email after hours
  • focused work time
  • no-meeting days

3. Deeper Connection

It could be as simple as asking “How are you?” followed by “How can I help you?” Employers and managers should provide spaces for meaningful interactions among colleagues. 

Local and global frameworks are critical to guide action on mental health. 

Commitment must translate into action. That means appropriate financing, support for social inclusion, and policymakers promoting person-centered mental health care and support. 

But it's not all about what governments can do. The World mental health report highlights that there's also a workforce adjustment that needs to take place. Each of us can start by strengthening our skills in understanding and looking after our own mental health.

Dévora Kestel, Director of WHO’s Mental Health and Substance Use Department, explains that using findings from research and practice we can

...reshape environments that influence mental health, and to develop and strengthen community-based mental health services. 

Mental health is critically important for everyone, everywhere.

A comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2030 made by WHO offers three paths toward mental health awareness:

  1. Deepen the value and commitment we give to mental health. 
  2. Reshape environments that influence mental health, including homes, communities, schools, workplaces, health care services, and natural environments.
  3. Strengthen mental health care by changing where, how, and by whom mental health care is delivered and received.

9 Tips for Better Mental Health Care at Work

Your mental health is a basic human right. But it's also a conversation that needs to take place more often, especially at the workplace. Opening up well-being at work increases productivity by as much as 12%. (Mental Health Foundation)

Post-pandemic hybrid work models call for reasonable adjustments in the way we work. Whether you're working from home or going back to the office, check out these tips: 

1. Find Work-Life Balance

Smiling mid adult woman stretching body while working on laptop at home officeSmiling mid adult woman stretching body while working on laptop at home officeSmiling mid adult woman stretching body while working on laptop at home office
Create a designated workspace is one solution to find life-work balance. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Lockdown made extremely evident how our personal and professional lives were becoming intertwined. It's hard to find balance between these two worlds. Being incapable of giving our all and being present every second of every day can leave us exhausted and dissatisfied. 

To help you out creating work-life balance, Headspace suggests a few solutions: 

  • adopt a meditation practice to increase clarity and heighten awareness
  • establish a morning routine (especially if you're working from home) 
  • create a designated workspace 
  • take yourself to a fake commute

2. Take Breaks Regularly

According to the Mental Health Foundation,

...a change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health.

Listen to your body. Take some time off. It could as short as a five-minute pause. Read a book or listen to a podcast, take a longer lunch break away from your computer, or plan a fun weekend to go somewhere new.

3. Add Meditation Into Your Routine

Trainings With Baby. Black Mother And Toddler Son Practicing Yoga At HomeTrainings With Baby. Black Mother And Toddler Son Practicing Yoga At HomeTrainings With Baby. Black Mother And Toddler Son Practicing Yoga At Home
Try meditation to stay calm. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Mindfulness and meditation can help us be more present with ourselves, at work, and with our loved ones. Some proven benefits include:

  • enhanced empathy and compassion
  • increased ability to sustain attention
  • reduction of stress and burnout

4. Eat Healthy and Regular Exercise  

You are what you eat, the saying goes. And it's true. What we eat can affect how we feel, in the short run and in the long term. Regular meals and plenty of water are the way to go.

Not sure where to begin? The Mental Health Foundation suggests some evidence-based ways to look after your diet:

  • try and plan for mealtimes at work 
  • bring food from home or choose healthy options for lunch
  • try and get away from your desk to eat
  • maybe try a lunch club at work: share meals and try new things

5. Learn How to Deal With Burnout

Exhausted unhappy woman sit at laptop hide face in hands tired work overtime suffer from burnoutExhausted unhappy woman sit at laptop hide face in hands tired work overtime suffer from burnoutExhausted unhappy woman sit at laptop hide face in hands tired work overtime suffer from burnout
More than half of America’s workforce struggles with burnout. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Are you feeling exhausted, drained, and unmotivated at work? These could be signs of burnout. According to a report released in 2021, more than half of America’s workforce struggles with burnout. The good news is burnout is rarely a permanent state. If you recognize any symptoms, you can start by taking some time for yourself. 

As explained earlier, try incorporating mindfulness and meditation elements into your routine. You can also try "job crafting" to make work feel more engaging and meaningful. Another way is by cultivating personal connections outside of work. 

6. Learn How to Cope With Stress and Anxiety

First, let's understand the differences. Stress happens in response to external triggers. Anxiety tends to involve ongoing worry and dread.

According to the CDC, coping with stress and anxiety

...will help you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient.

Some healthy ways to cope with stress include:

  1. take breaks from news and social media
  2. take care of your body 
  3. limit alcohol intake
  4. make time to unwind
  5. connect with others

7. Open Up Space to Talk About Mental Health at Work

People in a support groupPeople in a support groupPeople in a support group
Managers have the power to advocate for your employee’s well-being at work. (Image source: Envato Elements)

84% of respondents surveyed by the HBR reported workplace factors that negatively affected their mental health. And according to the Harvard Business Review, managers have the power to advocate for your employee’s well-being at work. 

Managers need to get better at listening to others and to themselves. It can simply start by asking: 

  • how can I support my team right now?
  • am I feeling burned out?
  • how am I coping with stress?
  • what resources does the company offers to support employees? 
  • how can I empower others (employers, colleagues) to ask for what they need?

8. Form Strong Relationships With Colleagues

As mentioned earlier, cultivating personal connections it's a solution to cope with burnout.

Other research shows that strong relationships with colleagues

...may reduce exhaustion and depersonalization over time.

It'll also help you feel valued, trusted, and appreciated more regularly.

9. Educate Yourself on Mental Health

Conceptual image of business stability and teamworkConceptual image of business stability and teamworkConceptual image of business stability and teamwork
Prepare yourself to open up mental health conversations with colleagues, friends. and family. (Image source: Envato Elements)

To keep an ongoing conversation about mental health, we need to stay updated. World Mental Health Day is a perfect excuse to check on ourselves and discover ways to help others.

Prepare yourself to open up mental health conversations with colleagues, friends and family. To help you out, check out this mental health reading list by the Harvard Business Review

Learn More about World Mental Health at Work 

The more you know, the easier it'll be to navigate mental health issues at work. Dive into some of our articles related to mental health and inclusion in the workplace: 

Create a Workplace That Values Mental Health

Create a work culture that allows for mental health to be included in the conversation. As individuals, we can start by being open to change.

In this article, you can find plenty of resources and useful information. Use this as a starting point to build empathetic and inclusive work environments. 

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