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Mental health doesn't require another wellness perk; it needs humanity

By Claudia Ceke |



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January 19, 2021 | 8 min read

Should we invest in mental health?

That's a question that we can no longer afford to ask. The make it or break it question is not if we should invest in mental health, it’s how we pour our efforts into the growing mental health pandemic.

mental health

Mental health shift

Mental illness is hitting an all-time high and it is getting worse. Depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are on the rise with 70% of teens and 78% of the global workforce being negatively impacted by their mental health. We can no longer afford to dodge the elephant in the room (read workplace) when more than half of our employees are somewhat struggling with mental health issues.

Mental health doesn't need another benefit. It needs humanity.

'Destigmatize mental health' has been a hot topic this year. Yet, a recent study by Oracle reveals that two out of three employees would prefer to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety. Surprisingly, 82% of the people believe that robots can support their mental health better than humans can. Isn't that ironic? Taking into consideration that loneliness and isolation are often the root cause of depression and anxiety. It almost appears as a silent cry for humanity (in the workplace) to take the mask off, drop the role play and uncover our vulnerable authentic selves.

We all need to take a long and hard look into how we choose to support mental health. Not in theory. But in practice.

A vast majority of businesses seem to approach the mental health issue by throwing money at it. We have seen a rise in adjusted benefits offering unlimited time off, free access to wellness apps and online therapy sessions. Don't get me wrong, such initiatives are a huge step in the right direction. But do they destigmatize mental health in the workplace? No. They are outsourced responsibilities acting as a short-term band aid.

Most of us seem to have forgotten about the fundamental element to destigmatize mental health. The good news though, is that it doesn't cost you a penny and you can find it right under your nose. Yes, I'm referring to you. More specifically to the human touch that we often shy away from. What mental health needs is your vulnerability, your transparency and more unashamed conversation.

Mental health doesn't need another benefit. It needs a culture shift – and sunshine.

Be curious about what is under the surface – dive deep

Supporting employees' mental health with perks and benefits is a kind gesture. But we all have a lot to learn from Hemingway's Iceberg Principle suggesting that the visible tip only makes up for 10% of the iceberg and the remaining 90% is under water. Much like an iceberg, our surface culture (benefits and perks) makes up for a small fraction whilst the biggest part of our culture is hidden below the surface. Our deep culture consists of the unconscious values, attitudes and behaviours that we express on a daily basis. So, if you strive to destigmatize mental health in the workplace you need to switch your focus from the surface culture and be prepared to dive deep. Your daily mantra must be to inspire vulnerability to flow; to take the lead in burying the corporate role play once and for all.

To initiate a culture shift you need to go first. Not once, not twice, but every single day. You need to consistently show signs of vulnerability and authenticity in your actions because; small daily seemingly insignificant improvements when done consistently over time lead to stunning results. You will quickly realise that your sincere and authentic behaviour will be welcomed with open arms and will spread across the business quicker than electricity.

Powerful (and free of charge) initiatives to destigmatize and support mental health

Use your voice to live out an empathetic leadership style

As leaders or coaches, we hold an immense ability to impact the mental health of our team. The most powerful way to tap into this space is to share an appropriate degree of vulnerability with your team; to trigger a shift where they feel comfortable to open up and share their personal mental health issues. Tapping into such authentic space will unlock a deeper relationship within your team which may serve as a blessing in any future challenges that may arise by nature.

Set your team up with coping mechanisms to battle stress and anxiety

Covid-19 has created the most stressful year in our history and continues to hold a tight grip on our emotional stress as we enter the new year. Even tough reality might be hard on us all this winter, we can't afford to give up. Instead, we can educate, support and encourage each other to cope with emotional stress, stay centered and rise stronger than ever before.

We are currently running a "Cold Headed and Warm Hearted Challenge" at Tailify. The challenge is designed to inspire small changes in our daily routines that will have positive compounding effects on our mental and physical health. To me, these simple (but oh so powerful) routines have turned into lifelines in challenging times. We are 21 Tailifyers who have signed up to follow this routine five days a week, for four weeks’ time.

Morning Routine:

Prevent dehydration: Drink a big glass of water the first thing you do when you wake up.

Cold therapy: Jumpstarting your system by taking an ice-cold shower in the mornings has a number of positive effects on your mind and your body.

Evening Routine:

Meditation: 10-30 minutes of meditation to calm your mind and ground yourself in the present moment.

Gratitude journaling: Write down three things that you are grateful for today and fall asleep with a full and rich heart.

On top of this, some of us are also fascinated by exploring; the Remarkable Science of Grounding, affirmations, yoga and visualisation.

Join the shift

This year we will see a strong shift where true authenticity will dominate our cultures and be praised by our colleagues. Not because the approach is a nice-to-have, but a must-have. We will experience a shift where supporting our team's mental health will move from being a nice benefit to a necessity for any thriving business. Now, before we jump the gun and add more health perks to our benefits, reflect on your daily behaviours and what you can do to inspire a cultural shift where the under-the-surface culture is nurtured to destigmatize and support mental health. Whether that be a casual 1-on-1 or a tricky performance review; always bring your authentic self and dare to be vulnerable.

Join the shift and allow authenticity to flow through your business and watch the magic happen as you, day by day, build a psychologically safe and mental health-supportive culture.

Claudia Ceke is people and culture partner at Tailify.

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