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  • Writer's picturePreeti Bonthron

Mental Health: Is it a collective responsibility?

60% of people say they have experienced at least one mental-health challenge at some point in their lives. This figure stays consistent with other global research regardless of country, industry, age group, role, or gender (McKinsey).

Globally, approximately 12 billion working days are lost annually, at a cost of $1 trillion per year thanks to attrition, absenteeism, lower engagement, and decreased productivity (World Health Organisation).

In the US, 84% of workers experienced at least one mental health challenge in 2022 (Lyra Health) and 89% of employees with mental health issues reported that it had an impact upon their working lives (CV Library).

The importance of self-assessment

The early warning signs of a mental health issue which might snowball often includes stress, which is easily dismissed way too often.

One way to identify areas of major stress is the Social Readjustment rating scale, also known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress scale, a self assessment tool that ranks 43 life events which may contribute to stress.

People can cope with some stress. How much stress depends on the individual. Stress can be a great driver for people who are motivated by pressure. Some might even say that stress in moderate amounts is healthy.

However, stress compounds.

One major factor might be easily manageable, two might start to show some impact and 5 in a year might be completely unmanageable.

Death of a spouse gets the greatest number of points as a potential stressor, followed by life events such as divorce, separation, jail time, getting fired, retirement all the way down to Christmas and minor violations of the law.

Even happy life events like marriage, pregnancy or outstanding personal achievements give people a certain amount of stress.

The one criticism of this scale is that different cultures might consider certain life events to be much more or much less stressful, so their placement on the scale isn’t completely accurate.

Whose responsibility is it?

The top three causes of employee burnout are reported as increased workload, mental health challenges, and pressure to meet deadlines. Work stress may not always be the primary cause of burnout, but it can contribute to poor mental health in the workforce, particularly in combination with other factors.

Most employees are directly or indirectly affected by mental-health related challenges, whether their own or of their colleagues and organisations should not treat employees with mental health concerns in isolation from the rest of the employees or worse, exclude them.

In their ‘The State of Organisations 2023’ report, McKinsey put Mental Health as a top area for organisations to make radical shifts in, recommending that they invest in a portfolio of interventions to address the root causes of mental-health challenges strategically and systematically.

It’s impossible to tackle everything at once.

Research by McKinsey Health Institute finds that eight workplace factors play an important role in driving mental-health and work-related outcomes.

These are toxic workplace behaviour, sustainable work, inclusivity and belonging, supportive growth environment, freedom from stigma, organizational commitment, leadership accountability, and access to resources.

Addressing these factors strategically will mean choosing the one or two areas that are likely to make a quicker impact on the organisation and employees first, followed by one or two that will have longer term benefits.

Better mental health initiatives will save UK businesses up to 8 billion annually and the ROI on initiatives such as Manager Mental Health training can be up to 800% as managers can spot warning signs of issues such as burnout before they have a significant impact.

What can one person do?

Over a third of adults aged 16+ in the UK (36%) do not address mental health on a day to day basis (Mind)

Men and women suffer from different challenges when it comes to addressing mental health. Women who work full-time are almost twice as likely to have a mental health problem than men. With men, speaking up about their mental health is a challenge. 40% of men have never spoken to anyone about their mental health, and of those men, 29% say they’re too embarrassed, while 20% blame the “negative stigma” attached. (Priory)

There is a very strong link between kindness and mental health.

The mental health foundation discovered that 63% of UK adults agree that when other people are kind, it has a positive impact on their mental health, and the same proportion agree that being kind to others positively affects their mental health.

Community, inclusion and a sense of belonging matters. There is nothing worse than feeling alone in the middle of a crisis.

If nothing else, look out for each other. Know what burnout looks like, and reach out to your colleagues that seem as if they are struggling.

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