Mental health refers to our mental wellbeing, including how well we cope with our emotions, thoughts and feelings, and how we deal with life’s challenges. The way we connect with the world around us is also an important aspect of mental health. Mental health issues affect most of the world’s population at some point in their lives. Being unable to cope with negative stress, anxiety, and depression are increasingly common challenges for people. In a world populated by almost eight billion people, there will be at least one to two billion struggling to manage their mental health at any one time. There is no reason why someone suffering with an issue should feel alone or cannot find some form of care. For starters, talking to another human being can do wonders.
Start small, and address the problems people are experiencing
With mental health, we start by asking simple questions, such as: how are you feeling; how is your mental health today; do you feel alone; how strong is your support network; do you have people around you who you can talk to; are you fulfilled; do you take time for yourself; do you want to make changes in your life; do you feel safe and secure; and what makes you happy? What are your plans? What are your interests? What are you grateful for? These are questions we should be asking ourselves, our partners, children, those close to us and those we work with. And we should take the time to listen to each other.
Due to global events largely outside of our control, we have been living an isolated existence, separated from our families, friends, associates at work, removed from our offices and far away from our normal comfort zone. During the last nearly three years, many of us have had to create new coping mechanisms to be able to live with the chaos affecting our lives. Not all of us may have had access to the right tools to easily make the changes we needed. Think about this: literally everyone, everywhere was affected by the pandemic, and the world is still trying to recover.
An overwhelming series of events impacting everybody's mental wellbeing
In a conversation the other day, a friend stated: “It seems like the whole world is gaslighting us.” They were referring to all the strange events that have assaulted our psyche over the last few years. A pandemic, popularism, border closures, travel restrictions, various illnesses, criminal activity, strange weather patterns with climate change, environmental destruction, war, and now monkeypox. Our mental health, our wellbeing, has been under attack; these worldwide calamities have caused a domino effect on everyone no matter how strong and able you think you are, or have been in the past.
Health, mental wellness and employee assistance services are available through employee benefit programmes, employee health insurance plans, community support organisations and some public programmes
No matter what role you have in life, we have a responsibility to help others, and they have a responsibility to help you. Some simple tips are important. Be patient with people you interact with, and be patient with yourself. Acknowledge other people, engage with them. We all need to know we belong. When on a Zoom, Teams or Google video call, take a moment to talk, communicate and ask how the participants are feeling; some seemingly idle chit chat can go a long way. Ask how their families are doing and how they are managing life. The first few minutes of a call can set the tone for an individual’s day or week, and it can help them feel a connected part of the team again. That moment of visibility demonstrates that they are valuable, that they matter. In a time when great employees, team members and associates are needed more than ever, this is an important human caring thing to do, and necessary to keep your teams intact.
Unfortunately, mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder are often misunderstood or ignored. Mental illness can emerge at any life stage and can affect anyone, even children. Despite this, there’s a great deal of social stigma and discrimination around mental health issues, which can cause barriers for people living with mental illnesses.
Health, mental wellness and employee assistance services are available through employee benefit programmes, employee health insurance plans, community support organisations and some public programmes. Some forward-thinking insurance, digital health companies and travel assistance companies are also providing mental health products specifically designed for expats, students and travellers.
Pandemic-specific impact analysis from WHO
A news item from the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2022 stated: “Covid-19 pandemic triggers 25-per-cent increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. [This is a] wake-up call to all countries to step up mental health services and support.”
The brief from the WHO also highlighted who has been most affected and summarises the effect of the pandemic on the availability of mental health services. Concerns about potential increases in mental health conditions had already prompted 90 per cent of countries surveyed to include mental health and psychosocial support in their Covid-19 response plans, but major gaps and concerns remain. “The information we have now about the impact of Covid-19 on the world’s mental health is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.”
Mental health support and assistance
From the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, Novus Health organised its Health Navigation platforms to inform members (insurance and financial institution customers) about the Covid-19 pandemic, travel and access restrictions, vaccines, general healthcare issues, mask mandates, and directions for staff returning to the office. Novus Health provided tools to manage pandemic-related stress, anxiety and depression. Our role was to inform, navigate and direct members, empowering them to make informed health decisions. This initiative included expanding mental health services through strategic partnerships with the best mental health services and facilities in the world so that they could provide localised care.
To provide a solution for our clients, Novus Health designed a full Mental Health Ecosystem to integrate into its web and mobile health navigation platform. The ecosystem provides a full range of mental health services so members can access the right level of care when they need it. This stepped-care model gives the member 24/7 access to virtual counselling, psychiatric and psychological therapy (such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy), pharmacy services, mindfulness sessions, meditation, brain function analysis, health navigators to assist with access to resources, and health coaching by registered nurses who can manage comorbid issues and accompany members coping with difficult life events.
Mental and physical health go hand in hand. As an industry, we need to adapt to this new normal
We have partnered with educational institutions, third party administrators, travel medical assistance companies, and insurers to embed our white-labelled mental health services into their offerings. Working with partners has allowed us to enhance their services while expanding the types of products and services that we include within our digital ecosystem.
In June 2022, 2Study Group Inc. and Novus Health (UK) launched a virtual mental health service specifically focused on students in the UK, through its site stayhealth2study.com.
Schools, associations, travel and tour companies and student groups can purchase monthly or yearly access to 24/7 in-person and virtual psychological care, information, courses, training and guidance from professionals anywhere they travel globally.
Mental and physical health go hand in hand. As an industry, we need to adapt to this new normal. We need to understand that it makes sense to add services for our customers that focus on mental health. This will enhance our businesses, but if we apply this to our own people it will help our staff and our families cope with this changing world.