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Mental Health: A state of mind NOT technology!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014   

"We have developed an app that will revolutionise employee mental health" - claimed one of our suppliers. 

And so it begins.

It reminded me of the dawn of the internet and the claims of software companies, that their new recruitment management systems would 'solve the skills shortage'.  They didn't, of course.  And nor will new apps, software, or any other form of technology solve the ever -growing problem of occupational mental health - something that is absolutely a state of mind, not a state of technology.

I'll come back to that point shortly, but one of the major triumphs of the GENIUS employee support programme that we developed at Ford & Stanley, was that it managed to get beyond the stigmatisation that, recent surveys confirm, prevent up to 80% of employees from addressing mental health issues that are impacting upon their performance at work.

I know, because I've been there

In terms of that stigma itself, the problem requires more people to raise their hand and say, "yes, it happened to me too - and I'm OK". 

So, hands up, personally, I lived the first 21 years of my life with the tragedy of a father who suffered  from Post Traumatic Stress from his experiences in the Second World War.  That experience itself could fill a book for my mother, my siblings and me; but coupled with the apparent suicide of my childhood 'best friend' when in my mid-teens, 'life' led ultimately to me being drawn into the NHS mental health system.

After a few years of tablets that removed my ability to feel anything much at all, and then psychotherapy which had me re-living my worst experiences every Friday morning 10-11am, I realised that, for all the investment and the best intentions of the NHS staff, something else was needed if I was ever to live a 'normal' life.

There is a better way

The recent upsurge in media attention being directed at occupational mental health is most welcome in terms of giving weight to the call to action from employers. What is lacking in the coverage so far is any sort of solution, beyond the aforementioned technology and the  traditional remedies that have been failing people like me for years.

The tracking app technology might actually help in some way - I'm certainly not dismissing technology out of hand - but, ultimately, the kind of support our teams have been providing for client employees over the past two and a half years can ONLY come from expert, one-to-one, face-to-face meetings.  That is the solution.

I know this, because we have proven that dramatic results in terms of reduced absenteeism, reduced presenteesim (at work not functioning), improved sense of wellbeing and employee engagement CAN be achieved when the service is delivered by people who have the experience to deal with whatever issues sit behind that individual's personal challenge.

The GENIUS programme is the result of 5 years research and then an 18-month pilot programme; but in truth it started with the failures of the NHS system and the journey of discovery since then that brought me in touch with people who felt the same way and, like me, have felt sufficiently motivated to do something about it.

To conclude...

The thought I'd like to leave you the reader with here is that although, with regret, there is a finite number of people we are able to support with our own GENIUS programme (we are recruiting the skilled resource needed as quickly as possible), Ford & Stanley has succeeded in demonstrating that the right kind of support does exist  - and we're talking an average of 3 one-hour meetings from start to resolution here, not the two years of weekly therapy I and thousands like me endured with no resolution. 

Point being, this is where the future of occupational mental health lies, not with a new app.

So, if you're reading this and it resonates, and you instinctively feel that there has to be a better way of your organisation approaching its mental health support, please share this post with someone who can do something about it. 



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