In the words of acclaimed poet Robert Frost: “the best way out is always through.”
While that saying can be applied to many different things, I found it especially relevant to that of the perception of mental health. It is an area which not only has been underestimated or downplayed for years, but also has been deemed unsolvable. In recent years, it’s become more than evident that neither of these schools of thought are accurate.
Full disclosure: I’m not a professional in the mental health field. I am, however, a professional in the ESHQ software space and the H in EHSQ represents health. Recently, EHS practitioners are learning “health” now includes mental health.
More importantly though, this topic hits home for me. In my close network of family and friends, two people have been afflicted with mental health-related issues. As such, I’ve seen firsthand how it not only impacts them but their families as well. To say that it’s challenging would be an understatement.
A Long-Overdue Paradigm Shift
Historically, the definition of health in the workplace focused (almost) solely on physical heath. Regulations and company policies were developed around protecting the physical conditions of individuals. Adding to the complexity of managing employees who were experiencing stress, depression or other mental health issues were certain religious and cultural beliefs and the social stigma that once was attached to mental health-related issues.
That was then though.
In recent years, medical and governmental bodies, corporations, social groups etc. have added mental health into their definitions of total health. According to the World Health Organization, “Mental health is an integral and essential component of health. The WHO constitution states: Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
While this seems common sense to us today, such a statement would have been considered radical just a few short years ago.
Real World Applicability: Key Efforts Made to Address Mental Health Issues
Changing the definition, of course, is only the first step. From a practicality perspective, medical institutions, governmental bodies and corporations have all developed mental health-focused programs, practices and processes to address this. Some key examples include:
- In the resources section of their website, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a Mental Health in the Workplace page, which shows how mental health stressors can affect employees.
- Under the Wellness Together Canada division, the Government of Canada, offers a self-serve mental health portal.
- Corporations such as Deloitte have taken their mental health focus to the next level by introducing their first Chief Well-Being Officer (Jen Fisher).
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Safe + Sound campaign, dedicated to showcasing the efforts organizations have made to protect worker safety now also includes mental health (e.g. under their 2205.103 standard, mental and psychological disorders fall into the category of disabilities).
In the Now: Apps that Support Mental Health During the COVID-19 Crisis
The importance on mental health has become more even more critical during this challenging time. On top of strategic and operational solutions, technology, particularly the use of apps, plays a crucial role. Within these, two key examples include:
- COVID Alert, the exposure notification app offered by the Government of Canada.
- WellCan, a COVID-19 app developed by Morneau Sheppell and Canada Life, which is essentially a one-stop shop to key mental health resources and tools (available in Canada).
Despite slow beginnings, it’s evident that the role and importance of mental health continues to gain momentum. At the rate things are going, I can say with confidence that the future, in the context of mental health, looks promising.