Scientists call for a holistic approach to mental health 

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Scientists are calling for a holistic approach to mental health that combines physical and mental wellbeing. In an article, scientists state that while clinicians often treat mental health conditions with medication, environmental, lifestyle and social factors should be considered, and a holistic approach adopted. 

A holistic approach means putting the person at the centre to address their emotional, physical and mental needs. 

So, what steps can employers take to introduce this into the workplace? 

1. Encourage open and regular communication 

When tackling employees with mental health problems, employers should take a person-centred approach to better understand personal circumstances which may have led to their wellbeing decline. 

Leaders should model and encourage open, honest communication with their staff through regular catch-ups or check-ins.  

According to a recent poll, many are still on the fence when it comes to feeling comfortable discussing their own mental health with colleagues due to stigma, judgment, lack of conversation and being perceived as weak.  

However, employees must be supported through personal issues affecting them at work.   

To do this, put foundations in place in the form of regular 1-1’s or group discussions, where employees can open up about what they’re going through or seek advice from others on how to cope with shared experiences. 

Creating a culture where staff can speak openly about their struggles at work and home will help create an environment free from stigma and allow them to find sources of helpful support.   

2. Promote exercise and more movement 

With low physical activity and poor mental health undoubtedly linked, employers must listen to their needs to foster a positive and more transparent culture.   

According to Nuffield Health’s 2024 Healthier Nation Index, in the last year 46.20 percent said work had negatively impacted * their physical/mental health. Despite this, it seems there’s a lack of support regarding time to undertake physical activity. Nearly half (45.70%) of respondents said that lack of time due to work acted as a barrier, with 42.91 percent stating more time should be put aside for it.   

While the benefits of regular exercise are well documented, there is less awareness and understanding of this inextricable link.  

It’s well known, for example, that physical exercise releases ‘feel good’ chemicals such as endorphins and dopamine, which make us feel positive and relieve stress. The benefits of ’emotional fitness’ on physical health are less widely known.    

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There is an inseparable link between physical and mental health, and, as such, a holistic approach is much more likely to result in healthier outcomes than by making artificial distinctions between mind and body. Focus on one above the other can lead to unhelpful behaviours and negative cycles, which can be difficult to break. 

To combat this issue, employers should not only better their understanding but promote movement in the workplace. This may be as simple as encouraging regular outdoor breaks, subsidising gym memberships to encourage regular exercise or full health MOTs in the office where health professionals can identify individuals’ physical risk factors. 

Promoting movement and physical activity aligns to Nuffield Health’s call on all political parties to harness the power of movement to support the nation’s health in a National Movement Strategy. 

3. Provide wellbeing resources 

Talking therapy enables people to understand their problems, alleviating emotional distress and mental health problems and helping them resolve personal issues via professional support. 

That’s why providing and raising awareness of relevant employee support available, at key times, should be a business priority.  

Ensure employees are well signposted towards the support on offer, along with guidance and encouragement on how to access the help available. This may be via email to employees, an office huddle or a virtual ‘wellbeing hub’.  

Employee mental health support services such as CBT, counselling, or Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can be used to assist employees dealing with personal difficulties that might negatively affect their work performance, health, and wellbeing.  

If your organisation doesn’t have access to qualified mental health support, be prepared to deliver a list of specialist charities and statutory services they can call for support instead.

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