Rethinking mental health

30 November, 2015  |  News


Rather than thinking about mental health issues as a liability to avoid or fear, it is time to flip that around and think of mental health as an essential resource which drives an organisation's success.

Hugh Norriss, director of policy and development with the Mental Health Foundation, told the HealthyWork conference earlier this month that mental health is better viewed as a state of wellbeing which, from time to time, will be disturbed.

Over a year roughly one in six people will struggle with a mental health issue such as anxiety, depression or addiction. These are not moral issues, he warned, simply health issues which need to be dealt with. "There's a firewall between health and safety. As Gordon MacDonald says, we tend to shout safety and whisper health. It should be the other way round."

There's no point in having lots of systems in place to deal with mental issues if your work culture is toxic. Better to focus on cultivating fairness, civility and respect, for it is these attributes which reduce opportunities for bullying and bad stress to thrive. The Mental Health Foundation, he said, received lots of enquiries from people at work who do not know where to start, including from managers who see people struggling with psychological issues. "They are coming from a place of pain."

He urged delegates to put in place regular measures of psychological wellbeing, and to embrace the role of positive psychology to help build a mentally healthy workplace. In particular, he outlined the five "winning ways to wellbeing":

  • Give
  • Be active
  • Keep learning
  • Connect
  • Take notice

Humans have a real drive not to be alone, he said, so small things which promote social activities in the workplace are worth pursuing. However corporate culture posed its own challenges. "Humans are designed to live in small groups, to move around a lot, to have time to notice nature and reflect in our downtime, and not to be constantly bombarded with stimuli. The modern corporate world is the opposite of that."

There is therefore a broader debate for us all as citizens about what the corporate world demands of us as workers, and whether that is reasonable.

"People just want to be heard. Not being heard is psychologically corrosive. I would argue the corporate business model is not sustainable given humans' need for nourishment, including spiritual nourishment."

 

Source: Alert24, 30/11/15 www.safeguard.co.nz