Due to the way we deal with mental health in the west, most companies think they have ticked the box with an employee assistance programme (EAP), training staff as mental health first aiders or by giving corporate access to an app like Headspace or Calm.
Of course, there is absolutely a place for these initiatives, but they are all shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.
Sadly, take-up of EAPs is very low and these programmes only teach people how to manage their stress, not how to rid themselves of the debilitating cycle of stress, anxiety and depression. According to Deloitte the average uptake of EAPs is between just 2% and 4%.
Training staff to become mental health first aiders is admirable but this approach again only tries to help people once they are suffering with a mental illness.
They signpost individuals to gain help, but many of the places people are signposted to are NHS funded, and we all know what the waiting lists are like for mental health care on the NHS.
It is great that employees have someone to reach out to, which also helps break the stigma of mental health and could help them on their personal journey to recovery.
But again, it’s only offering support once someone has got ill, it’s reactive.
Life hack and meditation apps, stress management techniques and even mindfulness are coping strategies but not solutions.
Already costing money
If you think about it, why would you want to manage your stress? Would you rather not have it or at least know what to do to deal with it when it arises?
What makes this reactive approach even worse, is the individual has now got quite ill and their cognitive capacity has already dropped by 40%, making them less efficient, causing them to partially withdraw from teamwork and make poorer decisions.
It is actually costing the company money even before they put their hand up and ask for help.
And this does not even take into account the substantial cost of absenteeism and presenteeism.
The pandemic and the lockdowns have made this already gloomy picture even worse, even as, or for some people especially as, we start going back to some sort of normality.
The anxiety created over the last year is not simply going to vanish and as we do start seeing our colleagues again, more mental health issues are going to come to the surface as we move out of the apparent safety of our homes.
We already had a mental health epidemic 18 months ago: according to Mind, one in six of us was struggling with an identified mental health issue in any one week.
Now, according to Public Health England, nearly 50% of us are struggling with stress, anxiety and depression.
If ever we needed to tackle mental health proactively, it is now: now that we are going back to the office, back to school and back into the shops.
So how do we do that?
Mental wellness education equips people to understand and deal with stress, anxiety and depression before they spiral out of control and become a problem.
It has four major platforms: true self-awareness, self-esteem, having a life vision and self-empowerment.
We may think that we’re self-aware, but we’re not – 91% of our mind, and therefore how we create our reality on a moment-by-moment basis, is unconscious.
This is why advice about pulling ourselves together is pointless: we would if we could. But how much do you know about your unconscious mind? Nothing.
Mental wellness education teaches you how your mind works and gives you a sense of identity, to understand who you are, something the vast majority of us don’t get.
If ever there was a magic bullet for mental wellness, it is self-esteem. But serious question: how many people in your life do you reckon are comfortable in their own skin?
If you are not comfortable with who you are, and according to the Prince’s Trust 45% of young people have experienced feelings of self-loathing, that completely colours how you create your reality.
But self-esteem is without doubt within the grasp of all of us, if only we knew who we were and how our mind works.
If you ask people what they want out of life, the answer will be some version of financial security, which while understandable, is not enough.
We need to know at a much deeper level what we want out of life, but we’ve never really spent any time exploring that.
Given that Deloitte estimates 80% of people are disengaged from their work, this is particularly relevant for employers.
Finally, mental wellness education ensures that when somebody understands who they are, is comfortable being that person and knows what they want out of life and work, they are genuinely self-empowered to deal with the expected pressures and unexpected bombshells that are a normal part of everyday life.
This is the time to invest in your employees’ mental wellness. Deloitte shows that mental health initiatives that are company-wide, are proactive and delivered confidentially to employee mobile phones have a return on investment of 11:1.