Over 1000 reasons to celebrate the future of workforce mental health…

(And the Ambassadors (pictures throughout) and organisations ahead of their time who helped us figure it out)

This week marked the close of Australia’s Biggest Mental Health Check-in – a world first initiative combining an online mental health profile and Medibio’s wearable technology.  The result saw over 1000 Australians sign up in under 4 weeks – all of them receiving an individualised program designed to improve or help future-proof, their mental health. 

Ambassadors: Dr Neale Fong, Vin Gleeson and Dr Kate Hadwen

The Check-in team and I watched as people all around the country opened their reports at the same time – symbolising that we are all in this together and mental health checks should be no more stigma-inducing than having a physical health check up. 

The e-traffic in the next hours was awesome:

“No one is ever going to tell you the state of your mental health, it is up to you. This is a unique opportunity to check in with your mental health and wellbeing and bring to attention the areas  you need to work on.”

“I always thought it was stress but now I get that it is anxiety – and I’m going to follow the tips.”

“Breaks everything that was overwhelming down into bite size chunks. I’m on it.”

And even from one of our amazing Ambassadors – a business and community leader

“This is the most important thing I’ve ever done for my mental health. I’m amazed how many people are talking with me about the Check-in, even in the elevator…”

The truth is, most organisations are still doing variations of mental health the same way we were decades ago, despite over 80% of the world’s data being generated in the last 2 years and leaps in neuroscience and technology.  Evidence that we are making ground on improving mental health is underwhelming.  Regardless of whether you subscribe to employers being responsible for this increase (I don’t), we all have more than enough personal and professional impetus to want to fix it, and we now have the data to do better than we are. We need to do better, it’s time.

We will release the full results shortly, but this was the state of play over the last month for over 1000 of our colleagues in workplaces around the country:
  • 42% of participants were clinically depressed and 38% met the criteria for an anxiety disorder regardless of industry or geographic location.
  • Of those who answered they had never had a mental health issue or were unsure if they had, 30% (of those who said no) and 60% (of those who said they were unsure) scored in moderate, severe or extremely severe ranges.
  • Only 10% of participants were getting treatment or support.
  • The biggest predictors of strong mental health were high self-awareness, engagement coping styles (problem solving, expression and support seeking instead instead of avoidance, wishful thinking, self-criticism), and emotional self regulation or how well  we can manage difficult thoughts.

Ambassadors: The Very Reverend Richard Pengelley & Fiona Beermier

The team and I were humbled by the readiness of people all over Australia with no lead time, jumping on board to see how they are tracking and getting their own programs.  The more people who checked-in, the more people felt ok to join them. 

The Check-in is far from a doom and gloom story – these are some of the reasons we are so optimistic:
  1. Australia is ready to do mental health differently. Ready to stop thinking things like mood, our thoughts and sleep management are the domain of people who aren’t coping. The truth is, they are in each of our domains and they should be.
  2. We need to back up and get better at self awareness. The Check-in reminds us that people won’t engage with intervention programs if they are not aware they have a problem. Mental health requires self-awareness in the same way that losing weight requires you to know what you are eating. When we gave people access to a dashboard of  variables most associated with psychological health (including their body’s response with Medibio’s sleep device) , 78% of participants said they better understood their mental health and 86% that they would recommend people around them took the same opportunity.
  3. Matching strategies to areas of highest need means most people will have measurable, achievable steps they can undertake themselves.
  4. Catching mental health early in an accessible, cost and time efficient way is a game changing pathway. Let’s give people the information they need to make their own choices.  Mental health and wellbeing starts with an individual choice. That means it is in good hands. 
Most of us recognise that we are living lives our brains weren’t designed for. In the same way athletes have stopped pounding the pavement and focused on Pilates and core stability for high performance, mental health is tasked with the same refinement.

To the organisations who participated, and the individuals who knew it was time to check-in, thank you.  You have sent messages to all Australians that mental health is everyone’s business and helped to remove the difficulty of checking only when things are tough. 

Over the coming weeks we will be sharing more of the results from the Check-in, but if you want to learn a little bit more about the program so far – Aust Biggest Mental Health Check-in clip

Oh – and watch this space – we have been inundated by requests from organisations and the public to do the Check-in again, and we can’t wait to share the journey in 2017.

Ambassadors: Paul Andrew, Adrian Arundell, Brad Rogers, Paul Davey

On a personal note: A special thanks to our courageous Ambassadors, who were first to check-in and lead the way for their family, friends, organisations and communities. Finally, to the Check-in team: my words can’t express the gratitude I have for you and your tireless effort, without which the Check-in would not have been possible. Thank you all.
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