Creating a safe space for people in your lives – your colleagues, friends, and family – in the midst of a pandemic
I am sure you would agree that the last eight months have changed the world in a way we never thought possible. Nobody was prepared and everyone has been trying to find a solution to bring life back to normal. This change has affected all areas of holistic well-being, i.e., emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, social and financial. I am dedicating this article to mental health, which directly affects our thoughts, actions and behaviors.
Mental health is a term often associated with mental sickness or imbalance. When we hear of mental health issues, we often think of someone dangerous or incapable. This is a default association because of our social and linguistic conditioning. What this does is create a marginalization in our minds, an unconscious bias, against those suffering at the hands of these issues. While the intent may or may not be marginalization, more often than not, that is the result.
Our environments play a major role in how we feel and think. In the workplace as well as in our personal lives, it is natural for people to be sensitive to other people’s opinions, statements, comments, and conversations. This creates a social impact on mental wellness of individuals. What can you do about it? In these testing times, where there is limited opportunity for physical human connection, check in on your friends. Discuss how you’re feeling and allow them to speak up as well. Keeping a constructive and periodic check on mental health is more important than ever before.
Lately, there has been an increased focus on campaigns that invite people to speak up and talk about mental health issues. These are great initiatives and serve as safe spaces for people to talk about whatever bothers them. However, studies show that we often wait for our issues to become bigger and scarier before we turn to these platforms for help. But wouldn’t it be better to nip these issues in the bud? As an individual, help your near and dear ones see that even for the seemingly insignificant things, they can and must reach out to you or anyone they can confide in.
From the workplace perspective:
Remember, we spend 12 out of 24 hours on work, work-related commute or thinking. Even now, as a lot of us work from home, we’re spending a staggering amount of time working. Thus, it becomes crucial for us as individuals, leaders, colleagues, and organizations, to provide each colleague the space to be their authentic selves. We must lift one another up.
As a leader, it, therefore, becomes crucial to give your team members opportunities to speak up when they feel overwhelmed, trapped, or just under the weather. This would help you build professional relationships that aren’t just transactional in nature, but stand strong on the foundation of human connection. And don’t do it because that’s the organization’s principle; do it because you care and promote a genuine culture of wellness and care in your organization.
It goes without saying that as an organization, you should track your progress on driving this culture using a measurement metrics. You can build one using:
Percentage of people approached per quarter
Percentage of people who reached out for help
Mental health discussions or topics
Track cases needing immediate attention
Track how your people are feeling on a regular basis
Form a team to champion the cause and track its initiatives and success
But over and above everything else, at an individual level, show you care! #Breakthebarriers and talk openly about mental health because it is okay to not be okay.