October the 10th is the World Health Organisation’s World Mental Health Day. This has encouraged great awareness raising campaigns, individual story sharing and amplified the need for further discussions on positive mental health.
It also sparks an interesting conversation about the distinction between the personal and professional – just what place do discussions about mental health have in the workplace and what can employers be doing to support employee mental health?
For many, ‘mental health’ is an overarching label for illnesses or issues that people may face, such as stress, depression, anxiety and more. However, only focusing on the issues limits the discussion and the solutions available. This means that it is important for us to take a well rounded view of mental health – which is where the Dual Spectrum Model comes in handy:
THE DUAL SPECTRUM – UNDERSTANDING MENTAL HEALTH
The Dual Spectrum Model combines two different scales which are operating at the same time:
- A person’s level of mental illness – whether they have a diagnosed illness, and if so, how severe it is.
- A person’s level of mental wellbeing – this is more focussed on their outlook, thought patterns and attitude. This represents their ability to lead life positively.
These two scales combine to create four quadrants as shown:
- Struggling people have a mental illness and poor mental wellbeing which means that they are in danger of becoming overwhelmed, facing a mental health crisis and so are in need of support.
- Coping people have a mental illness but have high mental wellbeing which allows them to implement coping mechanisms, seek support, find contentment and manage their illness proactively.
- Languishing people do not have a mental illness but because they have poor mental wellbeing they may lack satisfaction in life, feel apathetic or a sense of stagnation. This may lead to later risk of some mental illnesses or dysfunctional behaviours.
- Flourishing people do not have a mental illness and are able to utilise their positive wellbeing to live a happy, meaningful and fulfilling life.
Understanding this model is both helpful for identifying the needs of your self and your team members, as well as recognising the different strategies that you can adopt as a leader or employer.
THE BUSINESS CASE
One could easily argue that ‘mental health’ is a personal issue and nothing to do with the workplace. Though on paper this could be justified, we are ever moving towards a workplace culture that recognises employers have a responsibility to acknowledge and even nurture the whole person at work. Even the more reluctant employers are starting to recognise that taking employee wellbeing seriously has a return on investment as employees with positive mental health:
- Are more productive
- Have less sick days from stress and illness
- May be more loyal or committed
- Are able to be more creative and ambitious
Good mental health is good for business – as well as being the right thing to do.
WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO TO SUPPORT MENTAL HEALTH?
We can go back to the Dual Spectrum Model as a guide for what employers can do to boost positive mental health.
The mental illness scale – this is probably the more intimidating of the two scales since mental illnesses are traditionally handled privately and can involve specialist professionals such as the GP, counsellors or occupational psychologists. Although employers do not have a role in ‘fixing’ a mental illness, they can still be proactive and supportive towards employees who are experiencing mental illness:
- Signpost a range of services – advice lines, counselling and resources for employees to utilise at their discretion
- Create cultures of trust – this allows team members to open up about their mental illness needs
- Raise awareness and education – use training, campaigns or resources to ensure that staff can spot the signs of mental illness
- Make employment adjustments – some team members with a mental illness may benefit from changes in hours, work patterns, communication types or other work processes in order to manage their work life smoothly around their health needs. Ensure that your HR staff are knowledgeable and prepared to work with staff on co-creating adjustments
- Train mental health first aiders – people in your team who can be the first contact for staff who want to seek out support
The mental wellbeing scale – this scale is full of opportunity because no matter where you are at on the Dual Spectrum, you can always develop or consolidate strategies for positive mental wellbeing which will support the health of your workforce.
- Model good practice – ensure that leaders and managers are able to demonstrate and celebrate positive mental wellbeing skills so that they are normalised in the workplace culture. E.g. setting boundaries, taking holiday, being optimistic, appreciating others.
- Educate your staff – putting on workshops to learn skills and tools which support positive mental wellbeing can be an excellent CPD opportunity as well as embed practices within teams
- Provide resources – access to books, meditation apps and even posters around the workplace can remind staff of strategies they can implement to boost their wellbeing
- Identify the goal – it’s common for businesses to identify their commercial strategy or goals. Make opportunities to create a staff vision of what it means to be a flourishing, mentally healthy workforce – what does it look like, how do we get there? Having a clear picture of what it is and how to get there will allow more people to reach this state.
The exciting things about the Dual Spectrum Model for employers are that it
- helps to chunk out the different types of strategies which can be implemented
- allows you to check where your staff are and what their needs might be
- shows that no whether staff have a mental illness or not, they can always learn wellbeing tools to move into a more positive state
The Self Leadership Initiative works with individuals and teams to provide positive psychology workshops which support positive mental health. To discuss a strategy for your team, book a consultation.