Critical insight for people who don’t have mental health issues.

Mental Health
mental health

Mental Health Awareness week is approaching, and undoubtedly, numerous companies will soon be sharing positive messages about mental health and well-being. Many will follow the same well-trodden commercial marketing plans laid out by charities, all in an effort to be ‘part of the group’. Raising awareness is crucial, but it must lead to tangible behaviour change to truly make a difference.

Recently, the team at Think Organisation worked with a CEO who made a troubling statement: “I don’t have mental health issues. And, I know I shouldn’t say this, but I’m fed up with people using it as an excuse to be lazy at work.” With their permission, we felt it was important to delve into this statement.

Mental health encompasses a person’s psychological (including emotional) well-being, existing along a complex continuum. It enables individuals to cope with life’s stresses. Various biological and psychological factors can make people more or less vulnerable to mental health problems. Moreover, exposure to unfavourable social, economic, and environmental circumstances increases the risk of developing mental health problems (WHO, 2022).

Let’s unpack the CEO’s statement.

“I don’t have mental health issues.”

There are two issues with this statement.

  • I don’t have mental health

In reality, if you have a brain you have mental health. Just like if you have a body you have physical health. If the CEO was able to think, feel, and react in ways conducive to leading a positive life then he could reword this statement to something like I currently have good mental health.

  • I don’t have mental health issues

The word ‘issues’ immediately implies a problem that people are discussing or thinking about, suggesting the need for action. For example, ‘don’t make an issue about it’. In reality, 1 in 4 people experience mental health problems, which can develop into mental illness if left untreated. Sadly, many organisations fail to take mental health seriously until it results in a breakdown. At this stage, individuals experience intense mental distress or illness, often with psychological and physical symptoms, alongside changes in behaviour and emotions.

Which leads us on the next sentence.

“And I know I shouldn’t say this but . . .”

Using this statement as a preamble infers what is going to be said next is negative. It is like providing a blanket around something which isn’t going to be very nice. It is also a way for people to give themselves permission to say something which they know is wrong or untrue. However, in this context it is interesting because the chances are it is their own belief that the CEO is having to question.

“I am fed up with people using it as an excuse to be lazy at work.”

This sentence speaks the truth in many ways, and is something people probably say more often than they care to admit. Yet, in reality, people need time out. They need time to think. Just as our body needs rest and recuperation after exercise. Our brain needs rest and recuperation from activity. Through a number of coaching questions, and exploration it became apparent to the CEO that this statement was something of a legacy.

The CEO’s father used to assert that a bad back provided an excuse for laziness at work, a belief that had been passed down. We delved into how the CEO would relish a day off without questions, to be ‘lazy’ in a positive sense. They desired a day where they didn’t have to work or exert much effort, physically or mentally.

This illustrates the importance of language.

Negative words can erect barriers, isolate individuals, and deter them from seeking help. Language is the tool through which we unconsciously transmit and exchange information. During the session with a Think Organisation psychologist and CBT coach, it was the CEO’s manner of expression that sparked the subsequent discussion — tone, facial expressions, previous situations, and conversations all provided clues that this statement was not as it seemed.

In reality, the CEO used this statement to dismiss their thoughts and feelings, fearing judgment and seeking approval. However, they embarked on a journey of self-realisation and even requested this post be written, hoping it might help others. While they aren’t completely open, that’s okay — because they made the necessary changes. They prioritised their health and well-being, took time off when needed, and are now more productive than ever. Moreover, in the six months since they began role-modelling this behaviour with their team, burnout levels have decreased and productivity has increased.

Ultimately, mental well-being enables people to handle life’s stresses and realise their potential. Charities such as Mind focus on supporting individuals so they don’t have to face mental illness alone. So this mental health awareness week take some time to ask these three questions across your organisation.

  1. How can organisations foster a culture that promotes open dialogue and support for mental health at all levels?
  2. What strategies can leaders employ to encourage employees to take breaks without fear of stigma or judgment?
  3. How can individuals recognise and challenge negative self-talk or inherited beliefs that may impede their well-being, and what resources are available to aid in this process?

To foster a culture which supports mental health

Organisations can cultivate a culture of open dialogue and support for mental health by implementing comprehensive mental health policies and initiatives. This involves providing resources such as mental health training for all managers, focused on reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.

Leaders and managers need to reduce the stigma

Leaders can encourage employees to take breaks without fear of stigma or judgement by leading by example and prioritising their own mental well-being. This involves promoting a culture where taking breaks is accepted and actively encouraged.

Managers can communicate the importance of self-care and set clear expectations regarding workload and deadlines. Employees need to feel empowered to manage their workload effectively.

Providing mental health support for individuals

Providing support for individuals, such as coaching, to help them recognise and challenge negative self-talk or inherited beliefs that may impede their well-being can be really helpful. As we all have our own mental and physical health and only we know what we need – if we are prepared to listen. Paying attention to internal dialogue and identifying patterns of negative thinking or self-criticism can help create new habits. However, support must be given by qualified and experienced mental health professionals.

And access to health resources

Being able to access resources, such as online forums, self-help books, or support groups can offer peer support and validation, helping individuals to feel less isolated in their struggles with mental health.

Below are some links for further support.

Mental Health Foundation here.

Mind here.

Mental Health Matters here.

NHS Mental Health Support here.

NHS Physical Health Support here. Because mental health is only one side of the coin.

Think Performance. Think Excellence. Think Impact.

Check our Insights page for more valuable information.

Think Performance. Think Excellence. Think Impact. 

Check our Insights page for more valuable information.

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