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Have you talked about mental health with a close friend or colleague recently?

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health came under the spotlight as businesses knew that their employees would need extra support during this turbulent time.

Given the sheer amount of upheaval and struggles we’ve seen in 2020, it’s likely that you, or someone you know, has dealt with mental health issues. One UK study found that 64% of people reported symptoms of depression in the early stages of lockdown brought about by the pandemic.

The Black Lives Matter movement has forced us all to confront the psychological wounds caused by racism. While this is happening, Black people may not be getting the mental health support they need. In the UK and the US, most counselors and psychotherapists are white. Research has found that a Black person’s experiences can be misinterpreted by a white therapist, which can lead to misdiagnosis.

It’s more important than ever that we look after our own mental health, as well as look out for other people. Responsible managers will do all that they can to support the mental wellbeing of their teams during these uncertain times.

Businesses talked a lot about mental health at the start of the pandemic. Even as some countries ease out of lockdown and head back to the office, organizations need to keep up the conversation and continue to focus on mental wellbeing.

Open mind by @xavierlopex.

Four reasons you should keep mental health as a priority

Now is not the time for companies to drop mental health as a priority as we all adjust to the new normal. Here are four top reasons why…

🎯 A focus on mental health builds trust and belonging

You set the tone for your team culture. By opening up a dialogue about mental health and showing you care, you’ll build a supportive culture where people feel like they can tell it like it is and bring their whole selves to work.

That’s powerful. You can build trust and psychological safety when people feel seen and accepted for who they are — and that trust is essential for a high-performing team.

🎯 Black people are disproportionately affected when it comes to mental health

Black folks are more vulnerable than other groups when it comes to the mental health effects of Covid-19, and have been disproportionately affected by deaths during this pandemic.

A study in the US found that Black and Latinx people are more likely to report anxiety or sadness while struggling to cope during the pandemic than white people. Mental health charity Mind has said that “existing inequalities have made mental health of BAME groups worse during pandemic”.

It’s imperative that you create a workplace where diverse talent can thrive. To do this, you have to focus on mental health.

🎯 Addressing issues early reduces risk

Issues that aren’t addressed early can spiral into more serious problems, or even a crisis.

But most people address issues too late — if they do so at all. In fact, more than half of mental illnesses go entirely untreated.

According to Dr. Joel Young, professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University School of Medicine, mental illness won’t go away on its own, and the longer it persists, the harder it is to treat.

We all spend a huge amount of time at work, even if we’re not physically present in an office. You and your managers play an important role in spotting when employees might be suffering from poor mental health and responding to mental health challenges. As the pandemic wears on we are still at risk from mental health issues. Burnout is something that we can expect to see more of as businesses undergo significant changes and people worry about job security. One survey found that 73% of Americans were feeling burned out by May.

By empowering your leaders to spot and respond to early signs of burnout, your employees are less likely to suffer from serious health issues. It’s not only the right thing to do for your people, it also helps your business, since burned-out employees are more likely to take sick days and nearly half of millennials have left a job specifically because they felt burned out.

🎯 You have a duty of care for your people

As business leaders, we have a duty of care to our employees — and that includes their physical and emotional wellbeing.

You’re in a really unique position to spot changes in your people’s behavior and habits, and yet you’re not so close that you might not spot a slow, gradual change.

There are several flags that someone may be struggling with a mental health condition at work that you can train your managers to watch out for. Here’s an example checklist of things managers should watch out for from our Wellbeing Works program:

😠 Changes in their behavior. Are they snapping at colleagues? Is a usually chatty person now quiet and withdrawn?

🤒 Repeated absences. Are they missing meetings or avoiding face-to-face contact? Are they taking a lot of sick days?

😫 Lethargy or drastic change in productivity. Are they struggling to engage, or finish a project?

😪 Tiredness. Sleep and mental health are deeply connected. Are they visibly tired?

😒 Easily distracted. Are they distracted or unable to concentrate?

😨 Unable to make a decision. Are they procrastinating instead of making any decisions?

🚨 A couple of things to keep in mind:

We all have days when we’re stressed, or in a bad mood. The important thing is to recognize when it’s a one-off versus something more serious.
Even if you spot these signs, don’t make any assumptions or label people. You don’t know what’s going on until you talk to them.

Mental health self-care by @Catwillett.

Mental illness is common and costly — but thanks to the major stigma, it’s hiding in plain sight. It’s vital that businesses keep the conversation about mental health going and don’t allow mental wellbeing to drop off the radar.

It’s not been easy to meet face-to-face lately. But we can still come together to learn, discuss and bring mental health into the light using digital platforms. This World Mental Health Day, open up a conversation about mental health. Build psychological safety and give people the practical tools to manage their teams mental health and build a true sense of belonging.

Mental Health Works from Hive Learning takes your leaders on a journey from understanding mental health to actively championing wellbeing and building a culture of trust and openness. Empower your leaders to manage their own and their team’s mental health, help them have open conversations about wellbeing and give them the everyday actions that they can use straight away.

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