A digital mental health training strategy is integral to your employee wellbeing, as shown by research conducted by Business in the Community, which showed that only 44% of employees are comfortable to talk to a manager about their own mental health. So what exactly is digital mental training and how can it benefit your business?
Digital mental health means having access to modern technology to detect, prevent and treat mental health conditions. The study by BITC also showed that only 11% of managers have in fact undergone mental health training, reflecting that this is an area that has been neglected, but should be prioritised for employee wellbeing.
Workplace mental health experts Unmind recently put together a compelling guide on the importance of digital mental health in the workplace. They conducted further research together with the Reward and Benefit Association, and found that due to a staggering 12.8 million working days being lost annually due to poor mental health, 72% of organisations are now thinking about increasing their investment into mental health training for employees in the next year.
Unmind firmly believes that digital mental health training shouldn’t only start at management level, as we are starting to see a shift in employees also having a voice in decision making, and having only management involved puts them under a huge amount of pressure and excludes everybody else. While mental health training can be expensive, it is important to build a mentally healthy work environment where employees, throughout the organisation, feel empowered to support each other.
Important Factors When Choosing a Program
In their report, Unmind lists the following factors as being important when choosing a digital mental health training program:
Does it Teach Practicality?
Your employees need to learn both basic and critical skills to recognise mental health concerns, but they also need to have the confidence and ability to take action. They need to know what actions to take and when. Be it help on a personal level for milder concerns or knowing what to do for more serious issues.
Is it Focused on the Workplace?
Work is a major contribution towards stress. Your training program should take different workplace scenarios into context, empowering your employees in dealing with day-to-day work challenges that could cause stress, helping not only with their own mental wellbeing, but filtering this to their work and outside relationships.
Are Expectations Within Reason?
It is important to understand that anyone undergoing digital mental health training will not have the same amount of training or experience as a qualified professional, so you cannot expect them to deal with the full continuum of mental health issues.
The idea is to raise awareness and build confidence to understand signs of mental health issues, and equip employees with where to go towards improving employee mental wellbeing as well as offering support, and not to personally take on a therapeutic role.
Is it Accessible, Scalable and Sustainable?
Mental health training can be expensive, however even with this in mind it is important that not only managers are trained, but everyone within an organisation. For this reason using a digital course makes it more accessible to everyone, especially with the vast majority of people working remotely at the moment.
The course material should also be provided in smaller pieces and with interactive content in order to keep people engaged. Your mental health program should not be a once-off course. It needs to grow, adapt and become part of your company culture in an agile way in order for mental health to be normalised as a part of the employee experience.
Does it Focus on Prevention?
While mental health training needs to include crisis recognition and critical problems such as bipolar or manic states, the focus needs to be all encompassing to include not only the ability to identify more common issues like anxiety or depression, but also to maintain good mental health and work towards preventative measures in order to build on long term employee mental wellbeing.
Is it Measurable?
One of the benefits of using a digital mental health training program is the ability to provide data tracking and reporting which will help you understand which courses are being used and what the learning outcomes are.
What Topics Should be Covered?
Unmind stresses that mental health is not only about poor mental health, but also about good mental health, and it can move between the two on a regular basis. For this reason it should be managed daily, and that any mental health training courses should cover the full spectrum, including common problems like stress, anxiety and depression as well as less common, more concerning problems.
Your course should also have been designed by experts in their field, in order to ensure that your employees are being given the correct knowledge and awareness. Unmind recommends that the following scientific and practical sections should be included in any digital mental health training course:
Don’t assume that everyone has the same level of knowledge. It’s alarming how many people still believe that depression doesn’t exist and that it’s something people can ‘just snap out of’. Your course should start with the basics, including definitions, basic parameters and the causes of mental health issues.
Your employees should leave the course with an understanding of mental wellbeing, diagnosing and understanding any diagnostic shortcomings, as well as where to get help and barriers that may hinder this.
Common Mental Health Conditions
Once employees understand the basic definitions, they are ready to go into more detail. They are likely to be familiar with more common conditions like stress, anxiety and depression, however they will need more information to equip themselves to identify and take action on these common conditions before they become acute or develop into something else.
This would include recognising symptoms of common conditions, understanding how they feel and manifest. As well as where to go for intervention and strategies to manage common conditions.
Complex Mental Health Conditions
Hopefully the majority of problems encountered in the workplace are the common ones as described above, however it is important that any training course also teaches employees to understand and recognise more complex mental health issues, including eating disorders, psychosis, bipolar, self-harm and addictions.
While employees won’t be equipped to personally deal with anyone showing signs of these disorders, they should be trained to recognise symptoms and have insight into how it may feel, and where to turn for further advice or intervention.
Once employees have a good understanding of mental health and how to see signs of common and complex conditions, they should then be taught how to support colleagues going through any difficulties, including basic skills such as active listening and starting supportive conversations while not compromising their own mental health, as well as recognising when one’s own support may not be enough and what to do next.
Talk About Suicide
Your training course should support talking about suicide, even though the subject still seems to be a closed one on many levels. Your employees need to be educated on this topic, including how to spot warning signs and have the confidence to talk to and support anyone who has suicidal thoughts, as well as destigmatising the topic.
It is important though to stress that their role would be one of support, rather than a therapeutic role and that they must encourage anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts to seek professional help.
Mental Health in the Workplace
Unmind reminds us that on average we spend a third of our lives at work, relying on it for income, stability, and purpose. However with this comes pressure, sometimes conflict and other challenges that may affect mental health.
Your training program should focus on mental health in the workplace, so that employees understand the link between mental health and work, learning about a healthy mental work environment and adding to a positive and supportive company culture. This should be a common goal throughout the organisation to work towards positive employee mental wellbeing.
With so many working days being lost annually due to mental health issues, particularly in this time of uncertainty, it is critical that your company institutes a digital mental health program if they haven’t done so already.
Running the training online offers everyone the opportunity to engage with the course, as well as the ability to measure results. Employees who are equipped to identify and act on mental health conditions will feel supported and positive, adding to an improved wellbeing, which will ultimately lead to a positive company culture and employee experience.