We all have a mental health – and just as everyone can catch a cold, everyone can go through phases of mental ill-health. But while nobody hesitates to see a doctor when they have a broken leg, it looks very different for illnesses that can’t be seen from the outside. In Europe, each year, approximately 25% of the population suffers from depression or anxiety. Read that again – we are talking about one out of four people! Still, the topic is surrounded by a profound stigma; people are afraid they might be perceived as weak, are uncomfortable to talk about it and, as a consequence, often do not seek help: About 50% of major depressions are untreated! (Source: WHO)
Of course, this is not only about treating mental illness, it is just as much about preventing it. Everybody knows that they need to eat healthily, get enough sleep and work out to keep their bodies fit. The factors that influence our minds’ wellbeing are not so widely known, though.
And yet it is so important to look after our mental health, especially in challenging times like these: the renewed lockdown, social isolation, high infection numbers, worrying about loved ones, working from home (or living at work?), existential fears – the list of things that can drain us is even longer these days.
At EMPAUA, we want to give these topics space in the workplace. Therefore, we proudly present the newest role that’s been added to our Holacracy-based operating system: the Mental Health Ambassador will be responsible for mental health support, education, and stigma reduction. We’re delighted that the role will be filled by Sophie Rödl, who began training as a Psychological Counselor last year and is back at EMPAUA after taking a mental health-related break – that means she has both first-hand experience and expert knowledge at her disposal, to assist her colleagues.
The one-to-one check-in calls with every employee, which we at EMPAUA have been doing regularly since Covid hit in March 2020, have been newly situated within the Mental Health Ambassador role. In these calls, we give people space to reflect on their situation and share challenges and concerns. That way, we can identify prevailing issues at EMPAUA and can decide which initiatives and/or formats would be beneficial to many. It also allows us to identify colleagues, who might need additional support and act accordingly.
As a first action, since many people in these calls reported they were feeling highly stressed, Sophie held a Lunch & Learn Session about Self-Care for Stress Management. Stress in all its varieties can have a big impact on our mental health, and taking over responsibility for our own physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing is key for staying sane and healthy.
Sharing resources and techniques to foster wellbeing and maintain/improve our mental health will be an ongoing accountability of the role.
The Mental Health Ambassador will also serve as a point of contact for anyone needing to discuss a mental health-related topic – should they find themselves struggling, or if they need advice on how to cope with a loved one going through a hard time. As well as listening empathically, the role will try to provide useful insights, and support in getting professional help, if this is necessary.
Going forward, we’ll be introducing initiatives to educate colleagues about mental health topics as well.
By making this role an integral part of our set up, we want to make it very explicit that mental health matters can affect anybody, and there is no reason why this subject should be a taboo in the workplace. We see this as our contribution to a much-needed mind-shift in society – and we hope that many more companies will follow our example.