Last night, KJ and I attended the She Says event in Singapore, on the topic of Living Strong, where a panel of experts discussed living strong, turning vulnerability into an asset and creating a workplace culture that promotes mental health.
The panel was moderated by Alisha Tukol and Marta Stanke and included:
Marianne Blamire | Managing Directer, MullenLowe Salt
Elizabeth Piper | Occupational Therapist, Lifeweavers
Tan Teng Nging | Life Coach and Therapist, Wonder Full People
Meera Jane Navaratnam | Digital & Innovation, Accenture
Even though we are talking about mental health more than ever before, the common perception exists that those with mental illness could get better if they only wanted to and that their condition is a sign of personal weakness.
There was so much great information, advice and personal experiences shared by the panel, hosts and audience members that it would be impossible to share it all in a blog post, but I’ve condensed it into 10 key nuggets of advice the panel shared for supporting ourselves and our colleagues in the workplace.
1. EVERYONE has mental health. Even if we haven’t experienced ongoing mental health challenges ourselves, we can all relate to feelings of anxiety and stress.
2. Look for small changes in behaviour. Nearly 10% of the Singapore population will experience mental health challenges at some point, so we all definitely know someone who is or has been facing challenges. Small changes like mood, behaviour or eating habits can signal that someone is facing challenges or under high level of stress, these warning signs can be in ourselves and those around us.
3. Support each other. One of the best things we can all do is to simply listen, and not offer opinions or solutions unless asked. Be available. Be non-judgmental. Show you care even if the person doesn’t reply to your attempts to connect/reach out, just knowing someone is there when they are ready to talk is invaluable.
4. Lead from the top. Having leaders who are open about sharing their own mental health challenges is vital to allowing all employees open up about their own challenges. It can be tough to share as there’s a stigma of “weakness” around mental health - but it’s actually an incredibly brave and strong move to share about your own experiences
5. Create a supportive environment. Giving all staff the option for mental health days, where they can take a day off, no questions asked, or training a mental health champion to act as first point of contact for staff who want to discuss their challenges can be great ways to encourage an open environment. Marianne shared that MullenLoweSalt has made mental health their key company strategic goal for 2018, which is a really progressive standpoint for a business to take.
6. Have company policies in place. Even if you already foster a supportive environment in practice, write it down too! Putting a “return to work” policy in place for anyone who has been off work for any length of time, can also be beneficial in allowing them to return without becoming overwhelmed.
7. Focus on activities. Practical help is really appreciated, whether that’s making your friend who can’t get out of bed some food, inviting them out to do an activity or sending links and articles they might be interested in reading.
8. Healthy body, healthy mind. Make small changes to your day such as setting an alarm to go off every 40 mins to remind yourself to walk around the office. Walking, yoga and pilates were all low-impact exercise recommended by the panel. Book it into your calendar as a non-negotiable. One of the panelists deliberately booked a package of expensive gym classes so that she wouldn’t keep cancelling last minute. We all know how important exercise is, but it’s often the first thing we cancel!
9. Compassion. Often we are our own worst critics, so we should make a concious effort to be compassionate to ourselves, and that often starts by being compassionate to others.
10. Simple tips & tricks. The panelists shared a number of quick tips for when we feel overwhelmed or stressed at work including visualisation, breathing exercises and even just having a simple word that reminds you to stop and reground yourself.
Thanks to SheSays for arranging such a great event, and to the panelists for sharing so openly!