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Normalising mental health at work has been 'silver lining' of pandemic

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WATCH: DIAL Global Virtual Summit - Day 1

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of businesses supporting their employees’ mental health, according to panellists at the DIAL Global Virtual Summit on Wednesday.

Despite the "silver lining" there is still a "long way to go" experts have said. 

For every month in the past 14 months "there has been a different event that needs addressing from a mental health perspective," said Kelly Greenwood, founder and CEO, Mindshare Partners.

The pandemic itself, the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement, violent crimes against Asian Americans and climate change are just some of the issues that have impacted employees’ mental health, especially in the United States.

However, the normalisation of what it "means to have mental health challenges because everyone has been affected to some extent, has been a silver lining" Greenwood added. 

Senior leaders have also been more open and vulnerable when talking about stresses and having a hard time with their own mental health. 

This has brought "a level of authenticity" to firms trying to promote mental wellbeing, especially as COVID blurs the lines between professional and personal life, as most people work from home. "There is still a long way to go but this is a step in the right direction."

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DIAL Global Virtual Summit, in partnership with Yahoo Finance owner-Verizon Media (VZ), is a two-day free event where senior leaders from FTSE 100 (^FTSE) and Fortune 500 Companies discuss diversity, inclusion, and belonging and how these components are essential for successful businesses.

Greenwood was speaking at the 'Exploring Mental Health with Verizon Media' session.

The 'Exploring Mental Health with Verizon Media' session.
The 'Exploring Mental Health with Verizon Media' session.

Discussing the challenges he sees, Aaron Harvey, co-founder, advocate & principal at the Made of Millions Foundation, said high level messaging from leaders and managers has been heartening but he feels there's a really big gap in what employees are comfortable talking about. 

There are still situations in which they may feel some shame.

For instance, he explained that someone may be fine talking about grieving the death of a loved one, but if they are having thoughts about harming their new born child, they may not have the language or tools to do so.

“We have a lot of psycho-education to do to make symptomology of mental health conditions easier to talk about,” he said.

Meanwhile, Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan pointed out another challenge in addressing mental health. He said that companies in developed countries may have seen the stigma around mental health being reduced, but this is not always the case in developing countries.

He said Verizon is working hard to make talking about mental health a core part of its culture and benefits programme for employees, but "we have just started, we are just warming up."

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