Mental health has been a growing topic over the past 5-10 years and right now it is centre stage, due to the strain Covid-19 has placed on everyone’s mental health. Be it due to lockdown and lack of human interaction, health worries or income loss, the level of uncertainty caused by the pandemic has only propelled people’s mental health issues to new heights.
There is a big movement towards raising awareness of what roles companies can and should play in providing mental health support to their employees. We are also seeing a number of organisations growing in the space of providing mental health support to companies, ranging in their offering from 24/7 therapist phone line to workshops and digital tools, all designed to provide that much needed support many of us need.
As a founder of a mental health business for corporations I think this is a fantastic moving in the right direction. Many companies have come a long way from seeing individuals who seek or need therapy as a weakness and even as a threat to now supporting those individual in obtaining the right support. Companies such as the Google of the world who were early adopters in supporting their employees wellbeing have come a long way too. They know that providing a fruit bowl, a gym (pass), token meditation class and so on was a great perk to have but wasn’t in any way addressing the real mental health support their employees need.
But what is really needed is to normalise seeking and having mental health support, which inadvertently removes the stigma attached to therapy and mental health challenges. . If all members of a company were to take 30 to 60 minutes each month to check-in and spend 1:1 time with a mental health professional, it would move the dialogue from“I never will or would see a mental health professional as I don’t need anyone’s help” to “as part of my work our company has made it mandatory to do mental health check-ins with a mental health professional, I never thought this would effect all aspects of my life in a positive way. This moves the perception that there is something wrong with me that’s why I am seeking help, to, I must do it because of work, which opens and changes the conversation to a more acceptable and “normal” part of life.
There might be few matters that jump out about the challenges of making “therapy compulsory”, one of them is ethics and can we really force someone to see a therapist, second is how effective will therapy be if the individual isn’t open to it and the last one is affordability of such program?
The ethical dilemma of making therapy compulsory is the same as compulsory team building sessions. They need to go to the session but what they discuss in there is up to them. Being realistic not everyone will be open to therapy at the start, but it can also be a mental health and happiness check-in. However since mental health is a global crisis there will be many more employees that will welcome this help with open arms then employees that will feel uncomfortable to take part in such programs. With time as therapy becomes more of a norm in the work environment you can be reassured that even the most resistant to therapy will become open, willing if not very happy to attend the session.
With time a good therapist will be able to get the best out of each session to help the individual learn and grow. It’s amazing what thinking out loud can do for a person, sometimes it’s not change that we need just the opportunity to be heard. We also need to point out that this check-in doesn’t substitute therapy as once a month wouldn’t be sufficient enough to do a proper program, however this gives the individuals the opportunity to be referred further and obtain regular therapy. How should companies support their employees who require further support outside the mental health check-inn is another point of discussion for another article.
In terms of affordability, research* has show that providing mental health support increases’ productivity (stress and anxiety caused at or outside work impacts individuals work performance first), decreases stress leave, decreases turnover, which in essence decreases cost to the company. Workplace mental health training for managers and its effect on sick leave in employees research shows that ROI* is £9.98 for every £1 sent.
This brings me to the second point of this argument. Should the government incentivise companies to have “mental health check-ins” and other mental health support programs”? The short answer is yes! Mental health has been mostly affected by Covid-19 and it’s in government’s best interest to ensure a future where the society on the whole rebuilds and recovers from the devastating affects the pandemic has had on society, economy and humanity.
In conclusion, we have come a long way but there is still the elephant in the room and a huge stigma attached to mental health. Also employees still don’t feel comfortable talking to their employer about their own mental health due to this stigma. In order to support individuals and break the stigma we need to introduce compulsory mental health check inns with a third party that provides security, confidentiality and professionalism to all.
As one size doesn’t fit all, it is important that companies offer a number of different support options (1:1, live workshops and digital tools) all easily accessible through a confidential, professional third party.
Mental Wellness At Work