From education to employment

In the workplace mental health intervention and prevention are both equally important

Traditional workplace wellbeing systems 

When it comes to mental health in the workplace, wellbeing services tend to be reactive. If you are presenting with a mental health condition such as depression and need to take time off work, your employer will likely offer you support at this point – the intervention phase.

In a traditional workplace wellbeing system, at any point before this moment, there is likely little to no preventative services offered. Typically, businesses only serve absenteeism or those with chronic issues – helping people when they are in a state of distress.

When you look at it on paper, it’s pretty clear that business teams are missing a vital piece in the puzzle. By offering preventative care long before employees reach the point of distress, you can keep your workforce happy and healthy before reaching that crucial tipping point. In turn, benefitting not only your employees but your business too.

 What does preventative care mean? 

It’s much easier to illustrate how useful a technique is when placing it in the context of a totally different situation. For example, imagine there’s a river local to you in which people consistently get into trouble when swimming – to the point that people continuously need to be saved. While rescue teams could stay at the bottom of the river, catching people just before they drown, the true solution would be to head to the top of the river to figure out why it’s happening – stopping it from occurring altogether.

Although this example might seem a little abstract, employees are ‘drowning’ in mental health conditions, day in, day out, globally. Anxiety, chronic stress, burnout, and depression are just a few of the conditions employees live with on a daily basis and many of these start with symptoms that could easily be treated. What’s more, the mental and monetary cost spent on treating distress is often much greater than what you would spend on preventative care.

Prevention as well as Intervention 

When a person goes untreated, it often stems from two things: a lack of awareness and limited access to resources. By making wellbeing services available, and crucially, easily accessible to employees, we move closer to breaking down the barriers that accentuate mental health problems. 

If wellbeing services are available to anyone at any time, it could radically change the health of the global workforce. To understand how, it’s easiest to consider psychological distress as a continuum. Our mental health fluctuates on a spectrum. Some of us occasionally experience difficult days, while others face challenges near on every day. 

On the green side of the spectrum, someone accessing wellbeing services might want to work on personal development. Perhaps speaking with a life coach to work on goal setting, habits, and daily routines, to help them maintain their health.

Whereas, when we move to the red side of the spectrum, this could range from people occasionally struggling, looking for support on how to make the difficult days fewer, to people at the intervention phase of care who need immediate and urgent help.

In every workplace setting, there will be people living at various stages of this spectrum. As an employer, you will rarely know where your team is on the spectrum unless they reach the intervention stage. However, by offering both preventative and interventive care, businesses can offer support to every member of the team. And even better, the number of employees reaching the intervention stage should significantly reduce over time.  

 Personal growth 

When we focus on coping skills, emotional regulation, goal setting, and personal development, we can begin to restore balance in our lives. If we can teach people how to look after themselves, how to prevent distress, and how to stay on the right track, the need for interventive measures will decrease drastically. 

Just like with exercise, it’s no good to try and treat an illness – once it’s happened- with running or increased cardio. The exercise needs to come first to prevent physical health issues from developing. It’s exactly the same principle with mental health. By offering business teams the chance to continuously work on their mental health and wellbeing, we can keep the workforce happier and healthier. Prevention really is one of the greatest investments you can make for your employees. If services are readily available and easy to use, the benefits to your team, and your business, will speak for itself in no time.

By Ashley Lourens, Head of Wellbeing, Plumm

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