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13 Nov 2017

How to Stop Employee Mental Health Problems Before they Start

Work, diet and lack of sleep can all affect your mental health. Are you offering the right support to your employees?

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Everyone knows how to prevent heart disease, but how do you prevent a problem in the mind?

Mental illness is often viewed in a completely different light than physical illness. But as with many physical illnesses, environmental and lifestyle factors can play a big part in minimising the symptoms of mental illness.

In the UK alone, approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year, and only 1 in 8 will receive treatment. It's time for employers to get involved.


What causes mental health problems?

Most mental illnesses have a genetic origin, but just because a person has a greater genetic risk, doesn't mean they're destined to suffer a mental illness.

As Time Magazine senior writer, John Cloud puts it, "You can't do anything to change your genome, but your environment and experiences have powerful effects on the way those genes are expressed. A susceptibility to cancer may remain just a susceptibility — until you start smoking and kick the disease process into motion."

Stress in childhood is another leading cause of mental illness and for many, those factors played out a long time ago. But as with genetics, your childhood is not the sole determinant in whether you will develop a mental illness. Plenty of people struggle with mental illness, despite having had a healthy environment growing up. And even for people who have experienced trauma in childhood, we now know that nothing is set in stone — in fact, the adult brain can change and develop over time.

Beyond genetics and upbringing, lifestyle factors and stressful life events are also primary causes of mental health problems. And while we can't rewire our genomes or rewrite history, it is possible to minimise the impact of these triggers.


How can employers help prevent mental health problems?

We spend ⅓ of our lives at work. And in the UK, 526,000 workers suffer from work-related stress, depression or anxiety, resulting in 12.5 million working days of lost work.

Work, diet and lack of sleep can all affect your mental health and one of the biggest ways to prevent mental health problems, is for employers to step up to the plate and provide more support to their people.

Today's leading companies go beyond lip-service wellbeing initiatives to actively promote mental health awareness at work. For example, companies like Barclays and Unilever are incredibly open about addressing mental health at work, encouraging employees to speak up and seek help when needed.

Others, like EY and Booz Allen Hamilton, help employees maintain a healthy lifestyle and build stress resilience by integrating mental wellbeing into their fitness initiatives and giving employees more freedom and flexibility to do what works for them.

A healthy working environment may never be able to uproot the genetic, biochemical or psychological causes of mental illness, but employers can help their employees by simply standing with them in the fight against mental illness.


Want to know how you can help?

Contact us today at business@babylonhealth.com or 0207 100 0762 and find out how you can give your employees ongoing access to professional therapists direct from their mobile phones.

babylonhealth.com/business

Written by Zoe Eccleston

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