“Helping employees improve their mental health is a good investment for employers because mental wellbeing of workers is good for everyone and enhances personal and organizational resilience, and success,” Jane McCarroll writes.

Life isn’t easy for everyone. Not all of the time anyway. There are times when some of us are overwhelmed and desperate. Sadly, some of us succumb without ever realizing there is help out there.

We succumb because despite considerable effort in the community to make it otherwise, there is still a stigma associated with our mental health.

We keep our problems to ourselves because talking about them is often just too hard but this is where we need to start.

A recent Mental Health Foundation survey has found that high workloads, poor work/life balance and stressful work are three causes of poor mental health in the work force.

There is some good awareness being built from some pretty brave people who have got their message out there and helped remove the stigma with depression by telling their personal stories.

Helping employees improve their mental health is a good investment for employers because mental wellbeing of workers is good for everyone and enhances personal and organizational resilience, and success.

How do we encourage mentally healthy workplaces? And how are we approaching it from the perspective of running a small business that might not have all the tools that larger organizations have?

Unlike larger organizations, many small businesses don’t have access to the funded support and counselling made available in bigger workplaces.

I wholeheartedly commend the initiative Xero has recently launched to provide Kiwi small businesses with mental health support through a new program called Xero Assistance Program (XAP)

This pilot is initially being offered to 5000 small business owners and their families who will have access to face to face and online counselling. I think this is a game changer and an outstanding commitment to nurturing the mental wellbeing of Kiwi small businesses. I wish everyone involved every success in this pilot.

Recently, at a Skills business breakfast event I had the pleasure of meeting Dave Burt. Dave is hugely successful in his field and is the owner and director of a nationwide electrical firm employing nearly 100 staff. He is a great advocate of working with apprentices and provides a supportive work environment for his team to grow and thrive.

Earlier this year, Dave published a book called ‘Lengthening the Shadow’ which outlines his journey in managing his depression. I read his book and found it illuminating, for two reasons. In my observation, it’s not often I see men talking about their mental health, and I think his pragmatic approach will encourage others to consider their own mental wellbeing. Particularly men. The statistics are devastating for our men. And too often, they struggle alone – toughing it out. Not being soft. Enough is enough. What can we do to help?

There’s a lot of talk about discussions, about being there for people. But talking about your feelings or asking someone else to talk about their feelings can be daunting, especially for men.

Maybe we need a bit of a hand with that. Dave sums it up with a five word sentence. We should ask: “What’s happening in your world?”

If you really want to know and you really want to make a difference could it be is simple as asking this question – which by its nature the question lets the person know you are there for them and asks if there is something  that they would like to share?

There is help available and there is somewhere to go. It starts with our language, and the conversations we’re having.

Jane McCarroll is the strategic partnership lead for the Skills Group including IMNZ, The Institute of Management New Zealand, helping leaders stand up and lead since 1946.

Tags: , , ,