“I’m not okay…”

Arika Trimnell offers tips to help people feel safe speaking about mental health and to openly say ‘I’m not okay’

Pandemic, social isolation, employment, and economic uncertainty have contributed to the decline health and wellbeing of employees worldwide. You shouldn’t be shocked when a recent global study found that 67% of people are experiencing increases in stress, 57% have increased anxiety, and 54% are emotionally exhausted, 28% are having trouble concentrating, 20% are taking longer to finish tasks, 15% are having difficulty thinking, and 12% find it difficult to juggle their responsibilities. 
We all know that mental illness is on the rise.  Yet, discussing mental health at the workplace has long been a point of debate.  Reports that fear of stigmatisation at work and losing a job keeps many people trapped in their internal prison of despair until it becomes too late, often leading to severe consequences for the person and others. Employers can play a critical role in dismantling the stigmas around mental health problems, helping their staff feel safe having open and honest talks in the workplace. 
Mental health stigmas are so pervasive, it is important to practice patience when integrating wellness into the workplace


The 2021 Mind the Workplace report indicated that 59% of employees said their supervisor does not provide enough support to help them manage their stress. So, here are some of the latest top tips employers can start implementing today to ensure a more holistic and mental wellbeing focused work environment
1. Employ a mental health professional as a part of the team. Having an on-site mental health professional conveys to an employee that you not only care about their health and wellness, but you put it first. Although some jobs have medical insurance that covers mental health or mental wellness plans, having a mental health professional on the team lowers the obstacles people face when trying to access a mental health professional. By providing care in less formal, mental health settings, fear of the stigmatising effects of mental health treatments can be reduced. 
2. Host regular mental health workshops as a part of employee development and training. During these you can promote honest and open dialogue around various mental health problems, signs, symptoms, and treatments. Hosting these regular meetings keeps mental wellness at the forefront of people’s minds. This also empowers your employees to speak up and address mental health concerns when they see the signs and symptoms in one another.
3. Make mental wellness a metric in an annual review. This creates a holistic work environment making everyone accountable for their own mental health and wellbeing. This permits employees to take breaks when needed and take mental health days when necessary to ensure they operate at their best when actively working. This also provides a great way to encourage employees to self-assess their mental health throughout the year and as compared to last year. This solution also helps train leaders to take stock in how their leadership style could contribute to the betterment or detriment of their team’s mental wellness. 
4. Mandate mental wellness breaks. Just like paid holidays, employees can have X amount of mental health days as a part of their employee wellness commitment. Every industry has periods where they are busier than others and can implement these mental wellness days following a peak or in the middle to prevent burnout. Implementing these days is crucial in promoting wellness and creating a holistic culture.
5. Create strict company communication guidelines notifying both internal and external customers of reply timeframes and expectations to ensure employees aren’t overwhelmed by a perceived 24/7 availability. Just like wellness breaks, simple steps like this create space and time, allowing the employees and company the necessary time for their bodies return to homeostasis reducing stress hormones in the body.
These tips are only a few ways you can break the mental health stigma to help your staff feel safe speaking about mental health in the workplace. Many cultures differ in their perceptions and treatment of mental problems, so when crafting your mental health strategy, cultural competency is key and a wellness workplace survey would be a suitable place to start to assess the views and possible wellness strategies for your company. Since mental health stigmas are so pervasive, it is important to practice patience when integrating wellness into the workplace. Keep in mind the more you can incorporate mental wellness practices into the workplace, the more you’ll cultivate a culture and community of acceptance.
Arika Trimnell is a spiritual and mindfulness expert


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