Addressing The Mental Health Gap

There seems to be an ever-widening gap between encouraging those with mental health difficulties to seek support and the help available. The Wellbeing Project is planning to help address this divide by developing a valuable new resource to support mental wellbeing and resilience.

There is a trend for those in the public eye to be vocal about their mental health troubles and, in speaking out, encourage others to do the same. In 2017 alone, the celebrities who revealed they had experienced mental health problems included actors – Ryan Reynold and Emma Stone – and musicians – Lady Gaga and Zayn Malik – as well as sportspeople – Dame Kelly Holmes and cricketer Jonathon Trott.  A member of the Royal Family also spoke out; Prince Harry revealed how he was close to a breakdown in his late twenties after more than a decade of avoiding grief at his mother’s death when he was 12.

Undoubtedly, the trend is a positive one.  It helps to destigmatise mental ill-health and the message to those suffering is clear: you’re not alone, be brave, speak up, seek support.  However, as demand rises it also puts additional pressure on a service that is already thinly-stretched.

Just last month, analysis by the Royal College of Psychiatrists revealed that mental health trusts have been left with less funding in real terms than they had in 2012.  In real terms, income for mental health trusts is £105m lower in 2016-17 than five years earlier, due to Government cuts.

When people do seek help, there is also sometimes confusion about the support available. For example, a recent survey found that four-in-10 school leaders struggle to know what type of mental health support is needed for their pupils when young people ask for help.

Creating Support

The lack of available support has become increasingly apparent to me personally.

Last year, The Wellbeing Project started to notice a rise in the number of calls from individuals seeking our help. As an organisation that primarily works with other organisations, we were confused. Many of the calls were from individuals who were concerned about their mental health or that of a friend, partner or family member. We discovered that people were Googling for help, finding us and calling. It really highlighted to me how sparse the support was for those in need.

As a result of this increasing demand on services, more organisations are now stepping up to help address the gap. Leading employers are providing training and support to help raise awareness of mental wellbeing and how to increase it. When appropriately targeted, these proactive measures give employees the tools to build their resilience and also help to ensure that they receive the right help at the right time.

For some months, I’ve been working on a new assessment and psychometric tool that will help support the mental wellbeing of individuals and help organisations to target their interventions more effectively.  The result is Wraw – which stands for Workplace Resilience And Wellbeing – and we plan to launch it in the autumn.

As the name suggests, the tool is suitable for organisations as well as individuals.  It is a psychometric assessment that provides a report on strengths and development areas on wellbeing so using it in organisations can help flag up potential problems before they become serious, which is when sickness absence occurs or occupational health is involved.

It’s based on four columns that represent a wellbeing continuum.  Each of us is on this continuum, sliding up and down as we go through life.  In the right-hand column is resilience, where we are performing at our best, focused and determined in a way that is sustainable.  At the other end of the continuum is the far left-hand column where mental and physical health are suffering acutely.

The problem is that, for many, difficulties only start to be addressed once they are at the far left.  For individuals, it clearly means they are further away from being healthy and it takes more work and support to get better. For organisations, it means high costs, as the Government-commissioned report Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers makes clear.  The independent review of mental health and employers, which was published last October, said that the annual cost to employers is between £33 billion and £42 billion, with over half of the cost coming from presenteeism – when individuals are less productive due to poor mental health in work – with the rest of the cost coming from sickness absence and staff turnover.

How much better would it be to help identify those in the middle two columns and offer them the support to either stay on an even keel or, preferably, move towards resilience on the right?

Getting It Right

The difficulty can be identifying those people because not everyone wants to put their hand up and admit to struggling, especially in the workplace.  But running this tool across a workforce would flag to organisations where their employees are sitting on the continuum. Although the assessment results of each individual remain confidential, their employer would see, at a glance, where there may be opportunities to offer support.  It might be a certain business area, site, or even team. The results would enable an organisation to target resources appropriately to get the best return on investment.

This is important because, sometimes, organisations put support in place that is inappropriate. At best, this is a waste of time and money; at worst, it can do more harm than good.

Wraw will help to ensure the right support is available at the right time.  It will do this by training practitioners – independent wellbeing consultants, coaches or employee health consultants – who, if they pass the course, will become licensed to practise Wraw.

That way, either an organisation or individual can go to the Wraw website and find a licensed practitioner locally to run the assessment and then provide appropriate advice and support.  I’m determined to make it as affordable as possible so that it’s available to the many rather than the few.  This applies to the organisations that want to use Wraw, as well as individuals – it will be within the often tight budget of the public sector.

It is my goal that those in need of help will be able to find it quicker and more easily.  Rather than working ‘blind’ it will help individuals to make informed choices depending on where they currently sit on the wellbeing and resilience continuum, informing relevant and timely interventions. For the individuals and organisations in need of clear guidance and support, it will be a valuable resource to help improve mental wellbeing.

Train to become a Wraw Licensed Practitioner – we only have a few places left on our July and September programmes.  Please click on the box below for further details and the opportunity to secure a place before the programmes become fully booked.


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