Making everyday a good mental health day
Paul Zollinger-Read, Chief Medical Officer at Bupa, reminds us this World Mental Health Day that supporting good mental health is an everyday way of life.
Paul Zollinger-Read says we should make sure that everyday is a good mental health day, rather than another item on the never ending to do list.
Over the past year to 18 months, on a global basis we have witnessed a real recognition of the importance of good mental health. I have seen this in both the public health arenas and increasingly in the business sector. I recently visited Kaiser Permanente in the US, one of three US healthcare providers, and it described this recognition of the importance of good mental health as “putting the head back on the body”.
For far too long, society has seen health as almost completely synonymous with physical health and mental health was seen as a weakness, or something to “get over”. We have made great strides in reducing the stigma around mental health but there is still more that can be done, which is why it’s important to continue these conversations.
Over the years I have had bouts of depression which have never been easy, but that’s me. I wouldn’t want to lose that aspect of myself or I wouldn’t be me. Yes, I want to be able to cope with those challenging periods in my life, but I don’t have a disease that needs to be exorcised.
A report by Public Health England last week looked at the issue of physical health in those with severe mental illness. It found that those with this condition experience higher levels of physical illnesses and this occurs relatively early in their lives with the highest rates being in the 15-34 age group. This report confirms previous research and once more reinforces the need to support the whole of an individual. This is further emphasised by a recent study by mental health charity Mind. The study of 44,000 UK workers into workplace wellbeing found widespread levels of poor mental health at work with nearly half of all respondents surveyed saying they had experienced a mental health problem in their current job.
While, the past couple of years have seen a real recognition of the importance of mental health by more employers, including Bupa, this is by no means universal as the study demonstrates.
Mind has subsequently developed an online mental health gateway for employers. This provides information, advice and resources to help employers support their staff.
I’m proud that Bupa is advocating for better mental health support and awareness. The role of the manager is crucial in these situations, as staff are much more likely to raise issues and seek support from managers who can spot mental health issues in their team. That is why we have created new training aimed at building confidence in managers in how to have helpful conversations around mental health with their teams, and some of our managers at Bupa UK have trained as mental health first aiders. We have also created a Mental Health hub for our UK employees, which brings together all of the resources available to them and directs them to support available.
For World Mental Health Day, we have also launched a global campaign across Bupa focusing on the Power of Conversations. We have created a short video of employees talking about times when a good conversation has made a big difference for them. We have also partnered with Dr Bill Mitchell, a clinical psychologist, to create a new series of podcasts looking at how you can support a colleague at work with mental health in mind and how to support a child’s mental health.
Meanwhile, earlier this year Bupa UK launched a new feature in our business health insurance policies - Bupa Business Mental Health Advantage, providing employees with support and treatment to manage mental health issues.
From my perspective if we can help employers to all become aware and supportive of their employees then we will have taken a huge step, and can reflect on World Mental Health Day this year from a much better position than ever before, a position of hope. There is still a great deal to be done, so let’s all put the head back on the body and make everyday a good mental health day.
About Paul Zollinger-Read
Paul became Chief Medical Officer of Bupa in July 2012. He has led a distinguished medical career within the UK’s National Health Service, both as a GP and as CEO of a number of Primary Care Trusts. He has previously been the Medical and Primary Care Advisor at the King’s Fund. Paul leads the Bupa-powered CMO Network.