How are you doing? It’s the simplest of questions, and one we ask all the time. Often, we get the simplest of answers back. "Fine, thanks." But, around Christchurch, New Zealand, and the rest of the World, we’re learning it’s more important to speak honestly and listen respectfully when we’re asked that same question.
Prior to 2011, there wasn’t a lot of mainstream talk about mental health and well being. Following the tragic events of that February, and the subsequent earthquakes and aftershocks, we knew something was wrong but we didn’t have the language to talk about it.
Mental Health and Christchurch
Thanks to the amazing work of organisations like Korowai Youth Trust, the Life Education Trust Canterbury, and especially the Canterbury District Health Board initiative All Right? We’re learning more about positive and negative mental health and what impact it has on our everyday lives.
It’s clear there are still many misconceptions around mental health and mental illness, which is why it’s important to carry on the conversation.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 is running from 23 - 29 September. This year’s theme is ‘Explore your way to wellbeing.’ It’s encouraging everyone to explore the experiences, actions, relationships and surroundings that make you feel good and uplift your wellbeing.
To help you get started, The Mental Health Foundation has introduced the Five Ways to Wellbeing; Simple strategies to help you explore what gives your mental health a boost and makes you feel better. These can be strategies you work on in your personal life, or can be incorporated into your business’ core values and outworked as a team to improve the mental health of everyone in your workplace.
What can you do for someone else? At Godfreys Law, we encourage everyone to take an interest in a charity or worthy cause. As a business, we give time and advice to Community Law Canterbury and the Citizens Advice Bureau. Personally, Philip Sewell actively fundraises for Nurse Maude Hospice, and Brad McDonald is on the board of the Life Education Trust Canterbury. We see the importance of these organisations in our society and do what we can to support them.
Do what you can, and enjoy what you can to move your mood. Is it possible to install a standing desk in your office so employees spend less time sitting? Instead of sitting in a meeting, try walking through the park instead. You can take notes by recording on your phone, and there are apps that can help with transcribing. Some workplaces even have ping-pong or foosball tables in their break rooms to encourage people to get active.
Confucius is credited with saying; ““Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” When we stop learning, we start becoming dissatisfied, which is not good for our mental health. At Godfreys Law, we encourage our team to take part in continuing professional development. For example, joining a branch of the Law Society, or becoming part of a networking organisation.
Equally, when did you last visit your local library and find a book on a topic that genuinely interests you? Some workplaces have ‘libraries’ in their break rooms where employees can borrow or exchange books. It’s just one simple idea to keep learning, and take your mind to a different place for a few moments.
The next time you ask someone, “How are you?” Really take note of their answer. If you have the time, and if you feel comfortable with them, ask a follow up. “How are you really feeling today?” Be there for that person. As a manager, if employees come to you with issues, make sure they feel heard and outline the next steps you’ll be taking. Find a forum that works for you to take feedback, and let your team know you hear them and value their opinion.
In this busy world of constant emails, phones ringing and back to back meetings, it’s easy to rush from one task to the next without taking a moment for you. Taking notice is all about remembering the simple things that give you joy. If you arrive early for a meeting, instead of checking emails on your phone, look at the art on the wall or look at the scenery outside the window. Take a moment to breathe and find something that makes you smile.
Benefits of Positive Mental Health
While it may be cynical to say that happier employees are more productive, and yes that is true, what are the wider benefits of thinking about mental health and encouraging a more positive workplace environment?
Workplace stress is linked to heart disease, increased sick days and even workplace accidents. Staff feel a lack of loyalty and disengagement, which results in more mistakes and absenteeism. A positive workplace that emphasises wellness and boosts mental health has the exact opposite effect. It encourages loyalty among employees, and makes people want to give their best to an employer that values who they are and what they do.
At Godfreys Law, we may not be mental health experts, but we recognise the importance and take opportunities like Mental Health Awareness Week to start this conversation with others.
If you want to know more about mental health and the five ways of wellbeing, visit mentalhealth.org.nz