Same Storm, Different Boats – World Mental Health Day and Employee Wellbeing

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Lianne WeaverWritten by:

Lianne Weaver

Beam Development and Training

 


When the severity of the Covid-19 crisis was becoming apparent earlier this year, and we were told in March we were heading into lockdown, we heard often that we were ‘all in the same boat’.

I found that analogy unhelpful. Over the last seven months we've gone through some exceptional changes and challenges. This has impacted people in so many different ways. So I think it is much more helpful to say that we're all in the same storm, but we're all in very different boats.

This year’s World Mental Health Day, on October 10, has the theme of Mental Health For All – Greater Investment, Greater Access.

With a global pandemic impacting the mental health of millions, it’s never been more important to call for greater investment to ensure that no-one is left behind when it comes to good mental health.

Whilst more needs to be done globally to invest in access to mental health care, employers can and should be playing a major role too. Leaders should be supported to talk about mental health in the workplace, and given the tools and resources to recognise that their team members might be in distress or struggling.

This can manifest in so many different ways. For some people, the last seven months have caused health anxiety. For others, it's brought financial worries. For others it’s caused pressure on family life, perhaps because of working from home, added caring responsibilities or home-schooling. We're all dealing with different challenges under the same heading of Covid-19.

Many of us will have experienced some positives, but many of us will also have experienced negatives.

I call it the lockdown rollercoaster.

When we go through a life changing situation, usually it just affects us in our immediate circle. So if, for example, you're going through redundancy, or bereavement of a loved one, it would affect you and your immediate circle. In this situation your brain gets some comfort and reassurance from knowing the world is still carrying on as normal.

The brain also goes through past memories to see how we've dealt with a situation similar to this in the past. If we have never been through a situation like that, it will look to people around us to see how they've dealt with something similar.

But this year our world has been turned on its head. There’s been no comfort from looking into the external world because that's also been turned on its head.

On top of that our brain has not been able to find reassurance in experience, because this is an experience we've never been through before. And when we look to others, even experts have never been through this before.

All of this has resulted in many people feeling more anxious than normal. They may experience fearful thoughts, a lack of confidence, or sleep disturbances.

So in the midst of this storm, let’s use the opportunity of World Mental Health Day to think about how we can support one another. I’d encourage employers to support their employees by recognising the struggles they may be facing, and then by helping them to take responsibility for their wellbeing, empowering them with knowledge, understanding and skills.

Bear in mind that people have different learning styles, so be prepared to offer a combination of training techniques including theory, exercises and reflection. Whether your business is in ‘survive’ mode or you’re working back up to ‘thrive’, build in time for your staff to focus on wellbeing – and build a culture where good mental health is seen as central for everyone.

Above all, remember – we may all be weathering the same storm, but your employees may well be in many different boats.