Defeating the Mental Health Crisis
This is the second article in our series focused on Mental Health. In the first article, the author tackles the myths and stigma surrounding mental health.
Spotlight on Mental Health
We cannot fail to see the growing interest in the promotion of mental health awareness and in the movement to instigate positive change.
This is strongly being supported by the increase in media coverage, world prominent figures, members of the British Royal Family, celebrities, mental health advocates and charities, as well as people sharing their personal experience.
In fact, many countries, governments and businesses, around the world, have come to recognise the huge importance and impact that mental ill health has on our human functioning, happiness, community relations and economic development.
The Price of our Mental Health
The figures on how many of us experience mental ill health and the profound impact on the economy paint an alarming picture.
1 in every 4 people in the UK and over 1 in 6 in the European Union and World Wide experience a mental health or substance misuse problem. This is estimated at being around 970 million people constituting 13% of the global population (2017)(1). This has been shown to have a major impact on employee absence, engagement, productivity and the economy.
In the UK mental health problems are estimated to have an economic cost of £70 – £100 Billion (2013), €600 billion is estimated to be the cost to the EU countries with €240 billion on lost productivity(2).
The World Health Organization estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity (2017)(3).
In the UK only around 25% of people are estimated to have access to appropriate treatment (2014) (4) with as little as 12.1% of adults receiving mental health treatment (2014)(5).
Recognising Mental Health as no longer the Poor Relation
The human development, social and business case for the need in a greater consideration and investment in mental health has not only been made but is being heavily witnessed.
In the interest of building a greater society, the focus must be on making us healthier and happier, along with creating a more resilient and highly productive workforce. To achieve this the welfare of people’s mental and physical health needs to be on an equal footing. This requires significant and structured investment.
The UK Government has recognised this in its recent funding and made mental health more of a priority in 2011 with its new strategy of “no health without mental health”. In 2012 it was made a legal responsibility for the NHS to maintain an equal commitment and level of care for both mental and physical health by 2020.
We can see how businesses, organizations and individuals are beginning to recognise and implement strategies to support Mental Health and Wellbeing. This progression is essential for positive and engaged cultures, which promote strong and lasting growth.
What does it Take to Achieve a Greater Mental Health Transformation?
We are now talking more openly about our mental health issues and challenging the stigma.
The developments of an increasingly more positive perspective on mental health are encouraging, nevertheless, a much larger transformation is necessary.
We now require the implementation of more adequately funded support services and effective collaborative, long-term strategies involving the tacking of the deep-rooted stigma, negative stereotypes and discrimination associated with mental illness. These are all necessary if we are to create a more open, accepting, safer, supportive and inclusive society, in which people and workplaces can benefit and thrive
10 factors for the Creation of a Mentally Healthier Culture
Real and lasting change can be promoted by the establishment of a comprehensive and strong mental health strategy involving the implementation of structured state, social and business practices related to continuous life-long development.
Here are 10 factors vital for the creation of a mentally healthier culture:
1. Talking Openly
Talking openly means talking safely and in a matter of fact way about our mental health and its impact.
Being able to share one’s experience promotes many benefits in allowing people to gain relief, acceptance and support, as well as creating engagement.
This enables people to learn, understand and develop in a naturally healthy way.
2. Equal Recognition
Accepting mental health on an equal footing with our physical health is a necessary development.
These are hugely interrelated and contribute fundamentally to our overall health and wellbeing, which is vital for our positive growth.
[bctt tweet=”Caroline Ribeiro-Nelson (Head of Free Choices UK): Mental health relates to all of us #mentalhealth #brandminds2020 ” username=”brand_minds”]
3. Teaching Children
From a very early age, the importance of good psychological health and well-being supports to build psychological resilience.
This is more important now more than ever, in a world where the young are confronted with increasingly complex technological, political and social developments, which deeply impact and make greater demands on mental strength and flexibility.
4. Supporting Males
We need to stop giving harmful messages to boys and men and create a culture where talking about and taking care of their mental health and well-being are a natural process, rather than a weakness.
This is crucial, in order to deal with their mental health problems effectively and to reduce the higher risk males face.
5. Implementing Clear and Comprehensive Processes
Implementing clear and comprehensive processes in the establishment of government and health service policy and procedures is mandatory.
This is essential along with an investment of appropriate finances, in order to provide adequate structures and resources. This will enable the delivery of vital and high-quality mental health services.
6. Access to Resources
Access to resources is achieved in the creation of a variety of mediums, through which people can quickly and easily find the most appropriate support services and resources.
Mental health service users and their carers having efficient access to resources can greatly reduce stress and allow more people to gain the necessary support.
7. Relevant Guidance
Ensuring that there are clear and straightforward information and advice from mental health professionals and services, will allow more people, with mental health issues and their carers, to receive support more quickly and effectively.
8. Leadership & Commitment
A real and significant change in the workplace and economy can be brought about by governments and business leaders, throughout all industries and across every sector, making a strong and on-going commitment to place mental health and well-being high on their agenda.
A focus on creating a healthy, happy and resilient work cultures is supportive of a more engaged workforce and productive economy. This is good for people, society and business.
9. Taking Responsibility
Mental health relates to all of us.
Alongside government, health services and societal role models everyone needs to be involved in promoting our mental wellbeing. Sharing and working together, freely and honestly can be a powerful force in instigating positive change.
10. Joint Networking
There are increasingly more organisations and individuals working in the same way with the same goals.
Psychological, Mental Health and Well-being providers and supporters coming together to form a nationwide network would provide a comprehensive and coordinated strategy.
A consistent and focused approach is clearly more productive and effective in building a more healthy and resilient culture.
Is mental health a topic of interest in your organisation?
Feel free to share your thoughts with us.
Join the Conversation
We’d love to hear what you have to say.
According to the 2013 Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer, mental health problems cost the UK economy an estimated £70-£100 billion each year and account for 4.5% of GDP.269 It is estimated that 20% of this cost is attributed to health and social care costs, 30% to lost productivity, and the remaining 50% to human suffering.
Department of Health. (2014). Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2013, https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk
Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital.
Along the Road to Great Mental Health: Debunking the Myths & Stigma
Is mental health a subject of discussion in your organization? Read on to discover the myths and stigma related to mental health.
Creating the core for good mental health & well-being
If we are to cope well with life demands and develop as fully healthy human beings, then a major shift is required, where our mental health is accepted and responded to as a natural and essential part of who we are and how we live.
To achieve this, the deeply seated detrimental beliefs and negative behaviour, which exists around mental health, have to change. This inevitably involves the development of accurate knowledge and understanding, along with the creation of adequate mental health structures and professional services.
Such a transformation is far from easy, so how do we gain significant change and why is it so hard to shift our thinking and behaviour about Mental Health?
Why change is such a challenge
Changing negative messages and myths about mental health is tough, not only because these are deeply rooted and often established from very early on in life, but is further compounded by the fact, that in our culture we are very uncomfortable and unfamiliar with talking about our troubled mental status.
We then understandably possess a very strong tendency to avoid doing so. When someone asks How’s it going? the automatic response for many of us is “oh fine”, “great”, “couldn’t be better” or when things are getting to us a strained “okay I suppose”.
Low and behold if you were to share what an absolutely terrible week it’s been so far with your youngest child struggling with ADHD, your mother just being diagnosed with cancer, you feeling overwhelmed with having to meet your department’s unrealistic targets and beginning to experience low mood, anxiety, exhaustion revealing signs of depression.
Even tougher still if you are a leader, manager or head of an organisation who adheres to the belief and expectations that you cannot reveal signs of weakness or vulnerability or you will lose your authority and no longer be respected.
Making taking care of our mental health a daily habit
If we break a leg or have an operation, we do not have such fears or negative beliefs, as our physical illnesses are more readily accepted and supported.
Putting our mental health on an equal footing with our physical health is vital for our overall wellbeing. Brushing our teeth on a daily basis is something that we all know is good for us and we need to do, in order to maintain good oral hygiene for healthy teeth and gums. In the same manner, in which we are taught to brush our teeth, we need to learn and develop the normal everyday habit of talking about and taking care of our Mental Health.
[bctt tweet=”Caroline-Ribeiro Nelson, Head of Free Choices UK: Putting our #mentalhealth on an equal footing with our physical health is vital for our overall #wellbeing.” username=”brand_minds”]
The need to challenge myths and eliminate mental health stigma
One of the biggest barriers to improving a person’s mental health is stigma.
Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives. 
Mental Health Foundation
Many people feel unable to talk about their issues through fear of being judged, unfairly treated or not understood.
They remain silent, attempting to cope with problems by themselves and unable to receive appropriate support.
Removing the stigma of mental health and changing negative reactions requires better understanding through rectifying the misinformation and myths, which exist around mental health.
This relates to myths such as
mental illnesses are not real illnesses,
it’s a weakness,
weak personalities bring on mental illness,
it is shameful,
there’s no hope once you develop a mental illness,
it means you are not worthy or as good as someone else,
it’s under your control and you should pull yourself out it,
it makes you more dangerous, unreliable or unpredictable,
along with many more.
The importance of knowing the facts about mental illness
Take for example the belief or myth that “mental illness makes you less effective as someone else”.
Although people experiencing a mental health issue may have difficulties in aspects of their lives, this does not mean that they are unable to perform competently and therefore it should not be generalised. This varies and is dependent on a number of different personal and social factors and circumstances, along with a person’s coping, intervention and support strategies. It is, in fact, the case that someone who is experiencing mental illness can be just as effective or even more so, than someone else.
“Research has proven that diagnosis and severity of symptoms are not an indicator of work outcomes, but having had a job, wanting to work and believing you can work are better indicators of success (Grove and Membrey, 2005)”. 
How can we form more constructive responses towards mental health?
Incorrect information, stereotypical thinking and beliefs, pre-judgements, societal reactions and our own biases can greatly hinder our ability to talk about our mental health and prevents us from effectively understanding those in need of support.
We can then gain insight through reflecting on where we think our beliefs and attitudes around mental illness come from. These can relate to our own or family experience, friends or people we know, cultural and social influences or the media. As negative and false ideas strongly contribute to the stigma associated with mental health understanding and challenging these can promote more positive attitudes and behaviour.
Taking a comprehensive approach to understanding and promoting better mental health
An effective approach is taken by Time to Change, one of the UK’s largest Mental Health Campaign Organisations; this organisation focuses on implementing an on-going social and cultural movement, which instigates a fundamental and wide-reaching shift in attitudes and behaviour.
This involves mental health education, media exposure, collaboration with organisations with mutual interests and utilising a variety of strategies, which support employers and employees in the workplace, schools, community champions and national, as well as global campaigns, along with the provision of training and resources, which enable open, active and practical participation.
Recent findings on the impact of mental health campaigning
The National Attitudes to Mental Illness Survey 2016 findings, released by Time to Change in May 2017 found that between 2008 – 2016 there had been a 9.6 % positive change.
This constitutes an estimated 4.1m people with improved attitudes towards people with mental health problems in England. The survey revealed that people’s willingness to work, live and continue a relationship with someone with a mental health problem have improved by 11% since 2009. 
Seven approaches to promoting a positive mental health attitude and behaviour
- Education: Learning from detailed and factual knowledge helps to reduce negative thinking and behaviour towards mental health;
- Contact: Having contact and engagement with people, who have experience of mental health problems, has been shown to increase awareness and understanding resulting in a more positive response ;
- Challenging Assumptions and Stereotypes: This helps to eliminate false and harmful attitudes and encourages a more open and accepting mental health perspective;
- Collaboration / Partnerships: Working together with relevant professionals and organisations can assist in the creation of strong, appropriate and effective support structures;
- Inclusive Cultures: Investing in diverse and inclusive environments enable people’s differences and mental health needs to be considered in the most productive way;
- Training: Providing relevant knowledge, skills and resources greatly contributes to a more positive and effective response towards mental health;
- Policy & Procedures: Establishing clear information and strategies offers clear guidelines and appropriate responses to mental health issues.
Join the Conversation
We’d love to hear what you have to say.
www.personneltoday.com/hr/changing-attitudes-to-mental-health/ Changing attitudes to mental health By Personnel Today
on 3 Sep 2012 (Grove and Membrey, 2005)
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK384914/ Corrigan PW, Kosyluk KA, Rüsch N. Reducing self-stigma by coming out proud. American Journal of Public Health. 2013;103(5):794–800. [PubMed] [Reference list]