The latest Brum Youth Trends report suggested, perhaps unsurprisingly, that there is a difference between how we view our physical health and our mental health.
Even though great steps are being made into raising awareness of mental health issues and the importance of taking care of our mental wellbeing, it is still an increasing concern for many, including young people. 40% of respondents listed it as their biggest concern, and over 30% said they didn’t know how to access public services.
We spoke to our expert customers and colleagues to find out how to better take care of mental health, be that our own or others.
Physical health vs mental health
When it comes to our physical health, we don’t wait until there’s a problem with our body before we start taking care of it. In fact 82.5% of respondents said they look after their physical health, whether that’s through exercising, walking more or eating healthily. But, unfortunately, we only tend to start consciously looking after our mental health when we fall ill.
Physical health is the more tangible element of wellbeing. It’s generally much easier to achieve good physical health through diet, sleep and exercise. And if you have physical symptoms then you can see a doctor who can prescribe a cure. But, unfortunately, It’s just not as simple when it comes to mental health.
“Traditional western medicine looks after the physical health and ignores the mental - apart from those [suffering] with a severe mental illness,” explains Dr Ben Sinclair from Optimise Health Clinics at our Cornwall Buildings in Birmingham. “We all understand how it’s easier to fix a broken bone, but it’s far harder for us to understand how to fix a mental health condition, as they are much more complicated and multifactorial.”
“A greater awareness of the interconnectedness of physical and mental health is required, something that the public and private sector can assist with through the promotion of an integrated approach to health,” says Ben.
Raising awareness and understanding of mental health
“Education from a young age about what mental health is and the consequences of not looking after it properly are fundamental,” says Jasmine Hartshorne-Khan from Altruist Enterprises at Innovation Birmingham. By increasing awareness and education around mental health, we’re able to take mental health more seriously. This is something that is slowly happening already, through celebrities, and those in positions of power, being open about their mental health struggles.
“While more people may be aware of how to look after their mental health, many still need support implementing and practicing mentally healthy habits in their daily lives,” says Jasmine. “The culture surrounding mental health still needs to change. Workplaces need practices which incorporate mental health into everyday working life, for example providing space for rest, meditation or prayer in the workplace, giving employees options for physical activity and encouraging a sense of community within the workplace.”
The team at Altruist provide training to help organisations manage stress more effectively within the workplaces. “We need to develop working environments where open discussion about the negative impacts of stress and poor mental health are not seen as making excuses or being lazy,” says Jasmine. “Maintaining a mentally healthy working environment through open discussion and taking the initiative to seek support before stress and emotional upset become personally problematic. Importantly, open conversation must be underpinned by policy which supports the narrative that mental health is as important as physical health.”
What is Bruntwood doing?
For our business, it’s important that we create a supportive environment where talking to others and opening up is encouraged, so that we have support when we need it the most. Alexia Roberts, Head of People at Bruntwood, says “A big part of changing the lives of people with mental health problems is to tackle the culture of fear and silence in the workplace that stops people from opening up about what they are experiencing.”
With that in mind, it’s important for businesses to encourage employees to take a proactive approach to their own wellbeing. “We need to help empower employees to identify how best to stay well at work. This encourages people to think about what works and doesn’t work for them in managing their wellbeing, what support they might need from their manager and what they can do to support their own mental health.”
There are lots of ways we offer support, opportunities, and connections for our colleagues, communities and customers. This is all underpinned by a wellbeing-inclusive commitment to the way we design and manage our spaces and places. “We want to remove any barriers to people seeking support by increasing awareness and education and utilising services that are easily accessible, user-friendly and confidential,” explains Alexia.
Workspaces now feature everything from break out spaces, where people can go to take some time out to a shared lounge, games area or roof terrace to help people feel ‘at home’ at work. The inclusion of co-working spaces, collaborative areas and shared amenities like coffee shops and gyms helps to tackle isolation – encouraging conversation and boosting interaction and screen-free social time.