General Wellbeing Programs: the Foundation of Better Mental Health in the Workplace?

Prevention and management of mental health disorders have never been more important.

In this COVID-19 world,  40% of Australians are reporting high levels of anxiety and 1/6 depressive symptoms, according to a survey on emotional and mental wellbeing undertaken by the ABS in August. The social and economic cost of this is huge and many businesses are looking at programs to help support team members that are struggling. It is also crucial however, to provide programs that help team members reduce the risk of developing poor mental health. Prevention is definitely better than a cure.

However, engaging teams in programs to support mental health can still be a challenge for a variety of reasons: no perception of a problem, not wanting to flag any concerns to an employer and although there is definitely the beginning in a shift of perceptions, some team members may not be comfortable with acknowledging how they’re feeling.

The reality however, is there is good evidence that lifestyle choices that support physical health, can significantly impact the risk of developing mental health disorders, especially anxiety and depression, as well as support those currently struggling.

Why is focusing on general behaviours to support wellbeing good for mental health?

1. Participation in general health programs is likely to be much higher than a more targeted approach to improve mental health. HealthChase data from 7 years of game based programs consistently measured general health as the leading reason people enrolled in programs, followed by teamwork.

2. No one is made to feel different or perceived as stigmatised with the label of being physically or mentally “unwell”. We all need to be doing the same things to reduce the risk of chronic disease including anxiety and depression, as well as to support treatment. Examples include eating well, adequate sleep, exercising and managing stress as examples.

3. Without general wellbeing fundamentals in place more targeted programs are likely to be less effective. Behaviours such as empathy, kindness, mindfulness, gratitude or positive psychology have strong research supporting their effectiveness but when combined with other core wellbeing behaviours their efficacy can be greatly increased. The design of any program is also crucial to ensure high levels of participation and engagement, as well as effective behaviour change. For more insights into what drives participation, engagement and sustainable behaviour change in wellness programs click here.

What are the take-aways?

1 General lifestyle choices that support physical heath, support mental health.

2 Being seen as a more general wellness program increases participation, key for an effective program and reduces the perceived stigma and isolation of being labelled “unwell”.

3 Once some basic physical wellbeing behaviours are in place, the efficacy of programs targeting other aspects of mental wellbeing are likely to be more effective.

If you’d like to know more about the types of behaviours to include and how to create a program that is inclusive, recognises diversity and works well for teams that are physically distance, please feel free to check out our website here or to contact me directly