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Global Mental Health Strategy Through a Local Lens

For many of us around the world, life as we know it has changed significantly in the past year. With those changes come new challenges and obstacles for us to navigate to the best of our ability. These changes and uncertainties have, without a doubt, had a real life impact on our mental health.

You probably don’t need reminding that we’re VERY big on mental health and wellbeing here at CHAMPS, but the importance of workplace wellbeing is something that I really want to spotlight in this article – now more than ever.

According to research by the World Health Organization, between 76% and 85% of people in low- and middle-income countries and 35% and 50% of people in high-income countries do not receive the mental health care they need to stay healthy and productive. These figures alone indicate that the state of mental health is a worldwide issue. Given we spend over half of our waking lives doing our jobs, that cannot fail to impact employers the world over.

The costs to employers of less than optimal mental health are significant.  Take the UK, where poor mental health is thought to cost UK employers up to £45 billion a year. While we may think this cost is due to time taken off work due to mental illness it is, in fact, largely due to presenteeism whereby employees continue showing up to work even when they are not feeling ‘at their best’ in regards to their mental health and wellbeing. A similar story can be heard from all major economies right across the world.

It’s easy and human to look at statistics and rationalise why they don’t apply in our own organisation/situation. And of course you might be right.  You may well be an exception in an increasingly stretched world in which we are all asked to be doing more with less.  I used to think I was an exception too. But with hindsight I can look back and admit that I had many days when I simply wasn’t mentally able to face work – in fact, I struggled to even make it out of bed. Yet, I would do everything I could to paint on a ‘happy face’ and drag myself to work or put all my energy into a conference call to pretend I was bringing my A game. I certainly would never admit to anyone, least of all my manager, that in reality I was only capable of my F game at best.  I just didn’t trust them to not hold it against me later on. All the evidence indicates I was by no means unique – and that talking about mental health is stigmatised and hard to do. 

Employers the world over therefore need to ensure they have an actionable Global Mental Health Strategy, one where supporting employee wellbeing is woven into every element of their organisation. By addressing workplace wellbeing and mental health globally, your organisation can ensure it is doing more to support each individual employee on a personal level. 

While having a workplace wellbeing agenda is all well-and-good, many worldwide organisations continue to face barriers to developing and implementing effective programmes. These barriers include access, awareness, culture, and stigma. It’s these barriers that we need to tackle in order to create successful global wellbeing strategies that benefit both organisations and employees alike.

What is a mental health strategy?

A mental health strategy is an actionable plan for how your organisation will support the mental health and wellbeing of your employees. You can also think of it as a workplace wellbeing strategy.

The most important word here is ‘actionable’. After all, there is no point having a mental health strategy that talks the talk, if it doesn’t also walk the walk. Setting an aspiration is the easy part – bringing it to life day in day out is much harder.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to a global mental health strategy, and this is sometimes what puts organisations off. Getting your mental health strategy off the ground can be hard. But take it from me – there are plenty of benefits ready and waiting for companies that are willing to invest in an actionable global mental health agenda for the wellbeing of their staff.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing businesses and their people thrive with their global mental health strategies. At CHAMPS, we’ve seen clients learn, grow, and become aware of their employee’s mental health in the workplace and beyond.

Developing a mental health strategy is about creating open, honest environments that allow teams to speak more freely about mental health, and creating solid, measurable plans that help your organisation succeed.

When you take the time and effort to invest into the mental health of your employees, your workforce tends to be healthier, happier, and more productive; this is backed up by research from the University of Warwick, which found that businesses that invested in employee wellbeing enjoyed a 12% increase in productivity. You’ll also find that staff retention improves when investing in a global mental health strategy- as does your reputation as a leading organisation for staff wellbeing!

So where do businesses start when it comes to setting a mental health agenda?

This is something that we can definitely help with here at CHAMPS. We work with business leaders to put wellbeing at the heart of their organisation, offering a huge range of bespoke services that can help companies become mentally wealthy. Our experts can help forward-thinking teams and leaders turn mental wellbeing into their biggest asset at work – one conversation at a time.

Why organisations need a global mental health strategy

We’ve all dealt with our own fair share of challenges in the past year, and faced continual changes and upheavals in our work lives and beyond. THe pandemic has put mental health in the spotlight and as a result made it easier to talk about than ever before – personally I think there’s never been a better time for organisations to make their employee’s mental health a priority.

Successful agendas help attract top talent and can reduce the costs and risks associated with poor employee mental health. Organisations, especially multinational organisations, really need a global mental health strategy to engage employees at all levels, and across all locations. This strategy needs to work as a centralised, all-encompassing plan to ensure each individual employee is supported – not just those closest to the Head Office.

Implementing a well-thought-out global wellbeing agenda will increase uptake and success of any wellbeing programme, and lay the foundation for healthier, happier workers for years to come.

Building a global team of Mental Health First Aiders

When it comes to setting a mental health agenda, there needs to be open, meaningful communications about our wellbeing. This means tackling awkward conversations about mental health head-on, which can help reduce stigmas and taboos about mental health in workplace culture.

This can seem like a particular challenge, especially if mental health isn’t generally talked about within your organisation. But this is precisely why a global mental health strategy is so important- there could be many employees suffering in silence, and struggling to deal with their mental health in and out of the workplace.

Building a global team of Mental Health First Aiders is one way to strengthen the implementation and uptake of your mental health strategy. Mental Health First Aiders play a vital role in supporting employees who are experiencing poor or declining wellbeing at work, and can give reassurance and support to those who are finding things tough. In essence, Mental Health First Aiders act as the ‘go to’ person who can lend a listening ear to employees.

Here at CHAMPS, Mental Health First Aid training is something that we can deliver for multinational companies with employees in countries outside of the UK. We are proud to be able to offer global Mental Health First Aid training as part of our innovative program to improve global mental health strategies, and help organisation’s demonstrate their commitment to mental health.

When working through one unified process across all locations, you can help your business create a harmonised strategy that will better support your employees around the world.

Addressing global mental health on a local level

In our increasingly connected world, it seems that we’re becoming a set of globally connected ‘local’ businesses, which is something that high-performing organisations are taking full advantage of. It’s not about standardising everything – it’s all about effective localising.

For leading mental health strategies, this means developing a small set of global capabilities and cultural standards, as well as enabling local mental health champions, investing in development, and flexibility.

While you may have taken a standardised approach with your mental health agenda previously, localisations really do increase the likelihood of your global wellbeing strategy becoming a roaring success.

Putting it all together

Whatever mental health agenda you end up deciding on, your strategy needs to be localised to each of your offices.  Establishing a cadre of Mental Health CHAMPions, to help maintain your strategy and develop an authentic company culture of wellness can be incredibly valuable here. These mental health champions will also help prevent declining mental health in your employees and guide them through any challenges that they may be facing and so work well alongside your MHFA pool.

With this said, the success of your mental health strategy should not be placed upon the mental health champions within your organisation. Instead, the success of your wellbeing strategy ultimately comes from the top-down. Managers and leaders, across all your work locations, need to be 100% on board with your approach. These leaders need to be willing and able to support their team members as much as they can. Even the best global wellbeing strategy can fail if business leaders aren’t invested in making it a success!

It’s also inevitable that you’ll need to tweak and refine your global wellbeing strategy as you go, but try not to see this as a barrier. If anything, this gives you the freedom to adapt according to your performance and uptake and, like anything else in business, find out what isn’t working, why it isn’t working, and make changes as and when you need to.

Local approach to a global mental health strategy

Creating a global wellbeing strategy can seem daunting, even for the biggest multinationals. Taking a clear, localised approach with the right people on board can not only help your employees become healthier and happier, but it also gives your organisation the opportunity to become more productive and innovative.

I can’t stress this enough- developing a mental health agenda isn’t just another tick boxing exercise. It delivers real, measurable change that has a positive impact on your bottom line, which in effect boosts your success as a business.

If you’re wanting to create sustained change within your organisation, we’d really love to hear from you. Get in touch with our team at info@champsconsult.com.

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