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Instead of asking "are you okay?"...

Derek is a friend and colleague who has strong expertise in developing wellness strategies and supporting a positive working environment, and has kindly written this blog for me on mental health awareness.

'So October rolls around again, another year and what a year it is!

Once-in-a-lifetime events that touch almost every individual in the world are exceedingly rare and it seems we are in the throes of one right now. The current global health emergency has affected all elements in life including mental health.

Some Individuals are experiencing an increase in symptoms related to anxiety and mood change; the experience of being distant from our social circles and the continued uncertainty has affected us all differently.

This year Mental Health Week focused on the importance of kindness. The second big event in the mental health calendar Mental Health Awareness Day October 10th looks at “Mental health for all”.

So what does this mean for workplaces? for individuals? I suppose for me the first thing is to say that we all have mental health, how we are functioning may fluctuate but just as we all have physical health we all have mental health.

One way to consider this is in a One way to picture this is consider mental health on a continuum, and during our lifetime we will move around the continuum.

There are various numbers given for those who will experience a mental health diagnosis - it varies from 1 in 4 to 1 in 6 and derivatives thereof - whatever the true figure, some of us may have a diagnosis at some point in our life and need a degree of graded inputs, medication, self help, therapist input, and some may need hospital care or ongoing community care.

Others will not have a diagnosis, this however does not mean that they do not require a psychologically safe workplace, or a workplace that takes into account the various pressures us as humans come under during the cycle of life.

Just as we would not design a workplace to physically harm our employees, we also need to take care to design our work-places and our work in such a way that individuals finish their work day in a safe and secure manner.

For me “Mental health for all” means that we look at how we can first remove stigma, then provide appropriate support so that individuals can thrive. Just as early intervention works for physical health; early intervention with Mental health can often shorten acute periods of illness, and in chronic illness help get symptoms under control.

One way of reducing stigma is looking at how we educate leaders , providing awareness training and equipping managers with the right tools to be able to have psychologically savvy conversations could go a long way to helping individuals being comfortable to return to work/or maintain themselves in the work place.

It is my true belief that we are moving forward in how we deal with mental health in the work place. Much has been done and much more needs to be done.

Start with taking notice of those around you, drop a five minute coffee break into your diaries and instead of asking "Are you ok?" try: 'Tell me what's going on for you at the moment?"

Learn to question your automatic thought process and possible internal bias, and....Continue to be kind.'

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