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Why Mental Health Should Be Your Primary Resolution for 2018

Why Mental Health Should Be Your Primary Resolution for 2018

Come the new year, we find ourselves assessing how the past year was, and how we can be better this year. How we can do more this year – in terms of work, interpersonal relationships, and other things that matter to us. We commit to being better, more productive.  To make the most out of our work, to spending more time with our family, also fall into our list of resolutions. We promise ourselves to be healthier this year – to eat healthy and work out regularly. This year though, leave all these resolutions behind to focus on one single resolution, which is indeed the most important thing – your mental health. Why? Because being at a peak state of mind enables us in the best possible way – to deliver our best not only at work, but also in other aspects of our life.

Here are five simple ways for you to begin practicing your new year resolution.

  1. Acknowledge the need for mental health

    This is the very basic step towards practicing mental health care. Many of us feel ashamed to think that we may need to think about mental health as a separate aspect of health care. Getting rid of this stigma and acknowledging that not just you, but every one needs to focus on mental health is the first step. Remind yourself that you can either ignore this and wonder where you are going wrong, or acknowledge and start discovering your true potential.

  2. Take care of yourself

    Invest in yourself. Invest in self- care. Do the small things that make you happy, for yourself. Create your rituals and spread them through the day. For example, make it a point to meditate for at least ten minutes – first thing in the morning. Wake up early so you can read the news and have a cup of tea at leisure. Meet people who make you happy. Don’t be afraid to move away from people who make you sad or anxious. Understand that you are precious and people who you choose to give your time to, must understand this.

  3. Never be sorry for taking care for yourself

    Making yourself your first priority is never something you should feel sorry about, or allow anyone to make you feel sorry about. This is possible only when you whole-heartedly agree to, and believe in this. Keep reminding yourself that you can make other happy, only when you are happy. Remember, to give, you must first have.

  4. If you need help, reach out

    Without a moment’s hesitation, do so. Know that you are surrounded by people who love you, care for you and want to be there for you. All you need to do is reach out, and ask for help. You cannot expect people to know it when you need help, if you don’t really ask. So when you want to speak to someone, reach out. If you feel like what you are feeling right now is overwhelming you, ask for help from someone in a position to offer it to you.

  5. Be an example – help others help themselves

    Speak about how you are practicing mental health care. You realize how important it truly is, when you see how others are also benefiting from it. Tell your friends how staying true to your resolution has been helping you, and tell them about all the little things you have been doing. You never who may benefit from hearing you talk about how making mental health a priority has changed your life. Maybe hearing someone say it is just the push they may have needed to put them on a similar path.

Mindfulness as a gateway to Mental Health

In some of our previous posts, we have explored the concept of mindfulness and how mindfulness is indispensable to having a productive and satisfying work life. Mindfulness is indeed another facet of mental health. Being mindful is a beautiful way of reclaiming, and taking care of your mental health.

What does being “mindful” mean? Very simply put, it means being aware, being present in the moment. Or like our favorite phrase at OBOlinx, it simply means being “Happy in the Now.” In our endless pursuit for success, and achievement of goals in the world of work, we focus more on achieving the end result, rather than on the journey to get closer to our goals. Being mindful means to invest all our focus in the present moment, and not in the future.

Carolyn Gregoire, in her article on “How Mindfulness is Revolutionizing Mental Health Care”, speaks about how mindfulness is an effective way of taking care of your mental health.

We quote from the article,

More than 350 million people globally suffer from depression, and 1 in 13 people around the world have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Overall, the World Health Organization estimates that roughly 450 million people suffer from some form of mental or neurological disorder — and that roughly one in four people will be affected at some point in their lives.

These numbers are staggering. With the rise of mental illness and the increasingly pressing need for effective treatments, there’s never been a more important moment for mindfulness — the ability to cultivate a focused, non-judgmental awareness on the present moment. Research has shown mindfulness and meditation-based programs to hold promise for treating a number of psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
As research has mounted in recent years, mindfulness has migrated from spiritual retreat centers to medical facilities. Now, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) — the largest scientific organization in the world dedicated to research on the understanding and treatment of mental illness — is getting serious about investigating mindfulness as a complementary treatment for a range of mental health conditions.
Like the Zen master Thich Naht Hanh says so evocatively, “Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves. It is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.”

Mental Health Awareness at Work

Centuries of stigma associated with mental health have today brought us to a stage where it takes a huge amount of effort to even acknowledge that one might need a mental health intervention. The culture we are a part of, has never made mental health a priority. And the people who have done it, are perceived as ‘lesser’ individuals. Thus, the stigma continues to be perpetuated. It is a proven and researched fact that at least one person in twenty five has a mental health issue. This problem can be tackled in  a significant manner by creating awareness about it in the world of work. There is an urgent need to build in awareness regarding mental health into organizational cultures.

By creating a work environment where the employees have access to basic mental health resources, should they need it, is a great way of showing support for mental health concerns. When we say resources, we mean very simple, basic resources, which in fact should become a norm. For example, a counselor at a designated desk. If the organisation cannot afford a full-time counselor, you could bring someone on board for 2 or 3 days a week and he/ she could be made available on appointment. Similarly, other easy ways are by creating a resource pool of short  video clips or documents on mental health which could be circulated amongst the employees on email.

Mental Health First!

When we speak about health, we think about the best food for our body, the best gym to go to stay fit, the best healthcare to access in case of an issue. We seldom think of our mental health with the same urgency, or approach. This is a very strange phenomenon given the fact that it is the state of your mental health which becomes a guiding force for everything you do.

Why do we have problems focusing on a task?  Breakdowns and burn outs are very common today, why? Why do we find it so hard to sustain and nurture relationships? Given the pace that the world expects of us, it is not a surprise that we all face these problems, and more. However, by focusing on preserving and nurturing your mental health, and never being afraid or ashamed to reach out for help, we will truly succeed in taking care of ourselves, and others. Write this down on a sticky note and stick at home and in your workplace, so it serves as a gentle reminder – “My Mental Health before Anything Else!”

Importance of Mental Health Awareness at Work

Importance of Mental Health Awareness at Work

While efforts for mental health awareness in the space has picked up pace, there still is a long way to go. Recent studies and research has shown the direct link between mental health and performance or productivity.

To understand why mental health awareness at the workplace is an issue to be addressed immediately one must look at the bigger picture of how serious the concern really is. Numbers are absolute, and make an impact in a way that words cannot. So here are some numbers to put things into perspective, before we delve further into the topic.

Mental Health Awareness – A Reality Check

  • 56 million Indians, or 4.5% of India’s population suffer from depression.
  • While nearly 10 per cent of the population has common mental disorders, 1.9 per cent of the population suffers from severe mental disorders. [Source: WHO]
  • The WHO has defined sustainable development goals and elaborated the impact of mental illnesses and suicide on them. The suicide rate in India in 2015 at 15.7/100,000 is higher than the regional average of 12.9 and the global average of 10.6. Suicide is the leading cause of death among those aged 15–29 in India. [source: Mental Health Awareness: The Indian Scenario]
  • There is just one psychiatrist for four lakh Indians. Another expert said there were 4,000 psychiatrists, 1,000 psychologists and 3,000 social workers for the whole of the country and only 1,022 college seats for mental health professionals are set aside in India. [Source: World Mental Health Day: India’s Mental Health Crisis In Numbers]

Can the World of Work Make a Difference?

Yes it can.

Coming away from the scary numbers, let’s talk about how the world of work can make a positive difference to the existing scenario.

Why should the world of work make a difference?

Because about 8-10 hours out of 24 hours of our day is spent at work.

How can the work-space make a difference to our mental health awareness?

1. First things first, by acknowledging the importance of mental health and mental health awareness.

This made news recently, when an employee wrote to her CEO informing that she would be taking some time off, so she can come back a ‘100%’. The CEO’s response is up here for all of us to see.

Acknowledging that taking care of your mental health is important is the first step towards creating awareness. Being fit mentally is just as important as being fit physically to be at your productive best. However, it is impossible to bring about change without acknowledgment of the issue.

2. Tackling the associated Stigma

The social stigma attached to mental health comes in the way of even acknowledging mental health issues and dialogues. This continues to be one of the main road blocks towards addressing mental health concerns. Along with dealing with the mental health concerns, the individual is also at the receiving end of a great deal of social prejudice and discrimination. One way work spaces can help tackle this is by holding frequent workshops, webinars, or even focused conversations and dialogues on mental health. It is because of the social stigma attached that more often than not, mental health concerns are internalized.  Addressing them by holding sustained conversations about them is the only to bust the stigma.

3. Making resources available

By creating a work environment where the employees have access to basic mental health resources, should they need it, is a great way of showing support for mental health concerns. When we say resources, we mean very simple, basic resources, which in fact should become a norm. For example, a counselor at a designated desk. If the organisation cannot afford a full-time counselor, you could bring someone on board for 2 or 3 days a week and he/ she could be made available on appointment. Similarly, other easy ways are by creating a resource pool of short  video clips or documents on mental health which could be circulated amongst the employees on email.

Spending some time on creating a ‘Mental Health Directory’, can also be hugely beneficial, not just for your organisation, but for anyone who has access to this directory. Recently, students from the Azim Premji University in Bangalore, created a Mental Health Directory for the city of Bangalore, which has valuable information regarding all available mental resources in the city. Awareness centers, recreational  centers, wellness centers, counselors, psychiatrists, alternative care services, rehabilitation centers are some of the many resources which have been documented within this directory.

4. Small changes to the work-space design can make big differences

When we say changes to work space design, we do not mean big, expensive changes. We mean a basic mindfulness check of your work space.

While companies invest in many strategies to support the physical health of employees, from flu vaccinations to filtered air systems, ignoring employees’ mental health means businesses risk losing any gains they make in physical health support. Depression, stress, substance abuse, financial distress, work-life balance, ADHD, and, yes, even workplace bullying are all issues with which workers are dealing and that have a large drain on productivity. – Jennifer Stukenberg, How to design workspaces that support employee mental health.

Being mindful in how the work-space is designed plays a huge role in enhancing the productivity of your employees, by supporting their mental health. The most basic checklist is as follows –

  • Well lit and ventilated work space.
  • Away from noise and distraction.
  • Ensuring cohesiveness by positioning the employees in such a way that they can see each other and feel connected, instead of feeling isolated.
  • Some green around – there are plenty of options for indoor plants!

5. Building Empathy into the Organizational Culture

How sustainable all the above listed options are, is entirely dependent on the larger culture of the organisation. Cultivating ’empathy’ as a culture within the organisation is the key to understanding mental health concerns.

Empathy is not sympathy or pity. Empathy is the ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings from their perspective. It’s about putting yourself authentically in someone else’s shoes. Asking questions from their point of view and not yours, pausing, listening and thinking about the opportunities / issues from that person’s position. Why Every Business Needs a Culture of Empathy

Without the concept of empathy, understanding mental health concerns, or working towards mental health awareness will remain a distant dream. Also, the culture of empathy really starts at the top. It is the vision of the organisation, and the outlook of those on the top to fulfill the vision which makes all the difference.

We leave you with this thought provoking TedTalk by renowned mental health practitioner, Vikram Patel, on Mental Health for All by Involving All. In his talk, Patel argues why mental health shouldn’t just be a privilege of the first world, as it is today, and should be accessible to all. He goes beyond just posing problems by proposing low cost and effective solutions to address these issues.

Are you ready to take on, what may be called as your ‘basic responsibility’ to make mental health accessible for your employees?