This Saturday, October 10, is World Mental Health Day. And this year’s World Mental Health Day goal is “increased investment in mental health.” The World Health Organization chose this goal because "investment in mental health programs at the national and international levels has suffered from years of chronic underfunding” and is "now more important than it has ever been.”
And so, in honor of World Mental Health Day and its goal, below are four ways we can invest in mental health right now. (Note: although these might not be the exact type of “investments” the WHO is aiming for, they’re still sound, relevant, and important mental health “investments” to make.)
1. Invest in our own mental health
To begin with, it’s important, perhaps now more than ever—in the middle of a global pandemic, a divisive election year, a recession, and increasingly uncertain work arrangements—to make investments in our own mental health. These investments can come in many forms, including, but not limited to, the following: investments in mental health apps, investments in speaking with mental health professionals, investments in exercise equipment, investments in movement classes, investments in time spent away from screens, investments in time spent in nature, investments in creative pursuits, investments in cleaning up personal finances, and investments in something as simple as better lighting in our home offices.
All of these investments can significantly improve our mental well-being, be made immediately, and, thanks to increasing insurance coverage for these types of investments by some employers, be made without spending too much of our own hard-earned money.
2. Invest in our families' and friends’ mental health
It’s also important to invest in the mental health of our family and friends—especially now, as many of us and those closest to us are entering our eighth month of quarantine and a winter that’s expected to see cases of Covid-19 rise again. Note: an investment here doesn’t mean reaching into our pockets, but it does mean reaching out. It means investing time to ask how those closest to us are really doing. It means investing energy into listening to those closest to us to find out how they’re actually feeling, coping, and dealing—and then asking if there’s anything we can do to help, even it’s just more listening.
For some of us, reaching out to friends and family now can be especially difficult—if they share different views than we do on many of the divisive issues of the day. Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions for dealing with these tricky conversations, but perhaps keeping this in mind will help when it comes to inquiring about the mental health of family and friends: From those closest to us, even if we disagree with them on many issues, we’d certainly want the same type of “investments” in our own well-being. Which is to say, we'd want them to ask how we're doing, too.
3. Invest in our colleagues’ mental health
For most of us, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen, in person, any of our colleagues. And so, the question arises: Do we really know how they’re doing? Are they struggling with remote work? Are they afraid they might lose their jobs in this economic downturn? Are they finding it hard to concentrate given the prospect of contracting a deadly virus? Are they feeling lonely, down, fatigued, stressed out? If we don’t know the answers to these questions, it can be a good idea to ask. Of course, now, instead of on coffee breaks or at lunch, we have to ask via Zoom, Slack, FaceTime, or Skype. The important thing, though, is to ask—in some way, shape, form, or app.
We might also, in lieu of asking a single colleague directly, get a group of close colleagues together and hold a Zoom mental health hour–during which colleagues are given the opportunity to openly and safely share how they’re really doing, feeling, dealing, if they’re having any issues, anxieties, struggles, etc. Chances are many colleagues are now facing similar issues and struggles—and will take comfort in the fact that they’re not alone. Which can only bring colleagues and work teams closer together, in turn boosting camaraderie and productivity, not to mention overall team mental health.
4. Invest in our companies' investments in mental health
Fortunately, many employers have come a long way when it comes to investing in employee mental health. Now, many companies realize that mental health is correlated with job performance, productivity, engagement, communication, and physical capability and daily functioning. Also, many companies now support, monetarily, the mental health of their employees, subsidizing professional therapeutic sessions, mental health apps, mindfulness and meditation courses, clinical screenings, counseling, stress management programs, and more.
However, inside too many other companies, there’s still too little investment in employee mental health—and are still more mental health benefits that can and should be subsidized. And so, there’s no better time than now to find out where our employers are currently investing when it comes to mental health benefits, and where our employers could invest more.
And when we uncover those areas where our employers could invest more, we can then invest time and energy into helping our employers increase their investments. We can band together with our colleagues to ask management to do better, explaining that increased investment in mental health ultimately leads to healthier, more productive, more profitable employees—and thus healthier, more productive, more profitable companies.
A final note
This year, for the first time, on World Mental Health Day, the World Health Organization will be holding a global online advocacy event. It will be held this Saturday, October 10, at 10 a.m. EST, and will be streamed on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and TikTok. The free event will include a discussion about how WHO and its partners are helping to improve the mental health of people throughout the world, international leaders talking about how they're making mental health a priority, internationally-renowned artists speaking about why they've become mental health advocates, performances by prominent musicians, and more.
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