Mental health – Prevention is better than cure

Whilst reflecting on the meaning of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, would it perhaps serve society better to re-brand as #MentalHealthSolutionsWeek? Awareness is important but what does that actually mean? It is important, nowadays, to learn about what depression is, how it starts, the consequences of sustained and unresolved negative stress (and yes, there is such a thing as positive stress) and to move towards finding solutions, no matter how small and simple.

As a data science consultancy, we aim to show businesses how their data is relevant to the specific challenges of their business, which solutions will resolve problems and make a significant impact on profits. With regards to mental health, or any other societal challenge we face in 2019, awareness is only the beginning and serves only to highlight a problem – the solution is the aspect that provides real value.

Often, the need to have an opinion and highlight a problem comes over suggesting a solution. A simple understanding of the contrast between how our brains are designed vs the challenges posed by life in the 2019 fast lane will expose why so many people struggle with anxiety, stress and depression. The commonly known “fight or flight” response refers to our natural ability to produce all the necessary reactions to fight off dangers such as wild animals. In the workplace, however, we don’t often have the physical external outlet required to naturally return to a calm state. When faced with constant stress; in the workplace, family life, responsibilities, the London Underground and South West trains, we can subject our brains to stress-overload, often resulting in fatigue, anxiety and depression.

If awareness is knowing the existence of the problem, understanding the cause should be the precursor to finding solutions. The common answer is to prescribe anti-anxiety medication. Whilst these are known to treat the symptoms, much like paracetamol treats the symptoms of a headache, they do not treat the cause and are not long term solutions. If Starcount approached data insights the way depression is approached, our company certainly wouldn’t be making profitable changes to our clients’ businesses! So, where does change begin?

“He (She) is happy, whose circumstances suit his (her) temper; but he (she) is more excellent, who can suit his (her) temper to any circumstances.”

David Hume

Our first response to mental health problems is seeking out solutions that go beyond prescription medications. The first step in finding a solution is to take responsibility for our own circumstances and by doing so, we empower ourselves to make a change and seek solutions. Nowadays, businesses must be proactive in creating an environment in which employees are aware of mental health issues and feel comfortable discussing common problems. The word comfort is often mistakenly associated with healthy or beneficial; best perhaps understood by the concept of “comfort zone”. When we accept responsibility for our lives, our circumstances, our chosen environment and discuss these issues, it’s not a nice feeling, it’s uncomfortable at first and we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory. This is the proverbial “being taken out of our comfort zone” and it’s the place we learn, develop new skills, grow in capacity and ultimately become more resilient. Resilience and emotional intelligence are learned skills, and sometimes the best way to learn is to step outside the comfort zone and adapt to new environments.

We need to learn how to solve and prevent the cause, rather than merely treating the symptoms. There are numerous strategies, habits and lifestyle choices that are known and proven to solve the problem of depression, manage stress and reduce anxiety, but the ultimate and overriding concept is knowing that emotional intelligence and resilience can be learned. Our emotional intelligence is not hardwired and it is those of us who are willing to adapt to our circumstances that ultimately survive and thrive, in the workplace and in life.

At Starcount we established our “Wellness Action Plan” initiative to create a safe space for our employees and a platform for supportive and empathetic communication. Mental health should be everyone’s priority. By being proactive, we can work together to enhance mental health in the workplace, benefiting us both individually and as a company.

Never hesitate to have a chat with a friend, colleague, your manager or family member and let’s work to find solutions and #stopthestigma.

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