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Mental Health for Leaders

Prior to the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic we were already fighting a mental health crisis with over 264 million people struggling with depression globally, and around 650,000 adults (16.6 percent) in NZ.

One in six NZ adults are diagnosed with a common mental disorder including depression, bipolar and anxiety disorders at some point in their lives. Combine that with periods of isolation, increased anxiety, financial insecurity and the daily stress of our new normal, supporting the mental health of your leaders and employees has never been more important.

We have all had good and not so good managers at some point in our lives. Managers and team leaders play a key role in building and maintaining mentally healthy workplaces. The way businesses manage and support staff who are experiencing mental distress is pivotal in shaping how employees will cope and recover.

Everyone reacts to situations differently and some may find this time more challenging than others. To clarify there is a big difference between ‘mental illness’ and ‘mental health’. Some of us may have periods of mental illness but we all have mental health.

Research on previous pandemic quarantine responses such as SARS, Ebola and H1N1, as well as recent experience in China and Italy following COVID-19-related quarantining, found that there can be long-lasting effects for members of the public and health workers. These can include low mood or depression, severe irritability and anxiety, increased levels of family conflict and domestic violence, increased consumption of alcohol and other substances and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Lancet reported that the challenges and stress experienced could trigger common mental disorders, including anxiety and depressive disorders, and post traumatic stress disorder, which could exceed the consequences of the 2019-nCoV epidemic itself.

If we are to destigmatise mental health and create a culture of disclosure and openness, managers need to be conversationally competent in mental health. It's important to train managers to have supportive conversations with their staff including how they feel in terms of their mental wellbeing. Managers can also influence workload to ensure demands are realistic and encourage their teams to have good work/life balance. Open Minds have a fabulous resource to help managers have conversations about mental health in the workplace Let's Make Mental Health Part of the Conversation A Guide for Managers recommends organisations should:

Provide training on mental health and stress management – including how to spot the signs and how to have supportive conversations with staff

Have clear guidelines for managers on managing mental health issues

Encourage and support positive manager behaviours

“As a society, we must learn to see the complete picture of a person. Physical health is just one piece of the puzzle. Mental health is an important part of everyone’s life that needs to be acknowledged. Managers need to be like a “health eye” for their team. Whether it’s noticing behavioural changes and recommending available resources, or simply advocating time for wellness, managers can make the total difference in the workplace.” Dr. Carolina Junqueira.

It's important that businesses support Managers themselves so that they in turn can support their team members. Wellbeing Workshop can help you equip managers with the knowledge and skills to support your team's mental health. Our webinars (or workshops post lockdown) enable managers to spot signs and symptoms of distress, give the confidence to start better conversations, and empower people with the tools to better support your people. Let us tailor a package to suit your needs.

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