Every year the World Health Organization (WHO) promote a ‘World Mental Health Day’ on 10th October. Previous years’ themes have included psychological first aid (2016), dignity in mental health (2015), Living with schizophrenia (2014) and mental health and older adults (2013).
The WHO considers positive mental health to be “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” This could appear to be a broad definition, beyond the individual, and considers them as part of a wider community as well. Many factors can contribute to mental health or disorder, including the individual’s ability to manage their own thoughts, emotions, behaviours and their interactions with others; together with social, cultural, economic, political and environmental factors, including living standards, working conditions, and community support. It may be interesting to consider that hypnotherapy can help individuals with so many aspects of these, including someone’s healthy or unhealthy habits and beliefs, their access to or use of resources and the development of resilience.
Some interesting statistics in the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 which was adopted by WHO member states in May 2013:
1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental disorder at some point in their lives
3 out of 4 people with severe mental health disorders receive no treatment
By 2030, depression will be the leading cause of disease burden globally
Suicide is the second most common cause of death amongst young people
The theme for the WHO 2017 World Mental Health Day, on the 10th October, is mental health in the workplace. As adults, a sizeable percentage of our waking hours are spent at work. Our experiences in that workplace highly influence our overall wellbeing. Workplace initiatives to promote mental health and to support employees who have mental disorders, offer employers and managers not only benefits in terms of the health of their staff but also in their productivity whilst at work. In contrast, a negative working environment may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity.
In Europe alone, around 10% of long-term health problems relate to mental and emotional disorders, with lost productivity due to sickness absence costing business €136 billion. However, a publication by MIND, suggests 60% of employees would feel more motivated if their employer took action to support mental health. Interestingly, FTSE 100 companies who prioritise employee wellbeing outperform others by 10%. Thus, to use a concept the Health and Safety Executive first suggested in the 1990’s, “Good health is good business”, it makes financial sense to consider the mental wellbeing of staff. This is supported, more recently, by a WHO study which found that for every $1 spent in treatment for common mental health disorders, there was a return of $4 in improvements to health and productivity.
MIND suggests employers take a three-pronged approach, promoting wellbeing, tackling causes of work-related mental health issues and supporting staff who experience them. As a hypnotherapist, you have many different opportunities to work with organisations looking to enhance their mental health and wellbeing provision. This may be a simple as providing or collaborating on some resources that are provided to employees for free, such as stress management leaflets or relaxation MP3’s to enhance a wellbeing promotion. You may also go in to organisations and present sessions on stress management, assertiveness, communication, emotional intelligence or resilience building, even ‘how to be mentally healthy at work’, thus helping them to address work-related mental health issues. or even tackling potential causes by helping them develop a ‘wellness action plan’.
There are so many different areas where you can help business address mental health. It is well documented that work is actually good for mental health… when it is good. However, a poor working environment can result in both physical and mental health issues. For example, anxiety and depression have a huge impact on business, both in financial and productivity terms. You may work on an individual basis, perhaps with an organisation’s occupational health team, or support Human Resources or Facilities management, depending on who has been assigned management control for wellbeing. Where staff are asked about contributing factors, common themes can include:
Communication and relationship themes
…often about poor communication and management structures and unhelpful working practices
…where individuals report limited personal control over decision-making or their own work, or lack of flexibility in working hours
…including inadequate health and safety policies, and unclear work tasks
A paper, in 2012, by WHO on the risks to mental health, considered several vulnerabilities and risk factors. It indicated that mental health forms a significant part of a person’s ability to lead a fulfilling life, including aspects relating to work, study, relationships, leisure and even as fundamental as making everyday choices and decisions. Many factors contribute towards mental health and wellbeing, including a person’s own attributes, such as emotional intelligence, their social and economic situation, and the environment (sociocultural / geopolitical) in which they live. Hypnotherapy can help clients in all three of these areas.
Whilst clients may present with personal attributes such as low self-esteem, poor assertiveness and communication, substance abuse, and a range of medical conditions, these can be addressed within hypnotherapy. Ego strengthening can help develop self-esteem and assertiveness training can help a client become more confident in their communications. Furthermore, substance abuse can respond well to hypnotherapy, both in terms of the underlying causes and needs, and the present behaviour. Hypnotherapy can also help clients address a vast range of symptoms they may experience as a result of any medical conditions.
Although it may not be your first thought that hypnotherapy can help with a client’s social situation, working with limiting beliefs and unhealthy behaviours can address a broad range of factors, including loneliness (building social skills), bereavement (help with the grieving process), difficulties with studying (memory and focus work, confidence for scholastic achievement), social anxiety (anxiety reduction approaches) and work stress (assertiveness, stress management).
Furthermore, there are some aspects of a client’s environmental risk factors that could be addressed within the hypnotherapy treatment plan. For example, helping a client become more skilled in assertiveness and communication to engage with service provision and address discrimination. In addition, ego strengthening can help the client develop resilience and their sense of self, self-esteem and self-confidence.
Whilst it indicated that risks to mental health can occur over the course of a person’s life, risk exposure during formative stages of life can predispose the individual towards mental health issues even decades later. The development of good attachment during infancy and childhood is a strong predictor for social and emotional development. Hypnotherapy can help a new parent bond with their child and address and personal barriers that may impair this process. During childhood, a supportive and positive home life help develop mental wellbeing, whereas a negative home life can have the opposite effect. Another key formative stage is adolescence, and a time where substance abuse may be explored and yet is also particularly hazardous to the developing brain and body. A positive upbringing can give an adult the skills and abilities to address the challenges of adulthood and make beneficial choices, including considering work-life balance, their community and how they address health issues.
Thus, as a hypnotherapist, you can influence positive mental health in the workplace, from the very early stages of infancy (working with the parents), through the conclusion of an individual’s working life, even perhaps helping them positively transition into retirement. We hope this blog has been helpful, and if you have any questions relating to this blog or the subject mental health and hypnotherapy, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks