The promotion of emotional wellbeing includes any activity which actively fosters good mental health:
- increasing mental health promoting factors (protective factors) such as meaningful employment
- decreasing those factors which damage or reduce good mental health (risk factors) such as abuse or violence especially in childhood.
- activities which promote mental health may also prevent mental illness.
- practical assistance to help people overcome the barriers to inclusion as well as support in managing complex relationships and emotional distress
There are three considerations:
- How individuals, families, organisations and communities react – think and feel
- The factors which influence how we think and feel, individually and collectively
- The impact that this has on overall health and well being
At three levels:
- Strengthening individuals – increasing emotional resilience – through improving self-esteem, problem solving or coping skills
- Strengthening communities – increasing inclusion and participation, improving environments including safety and bullying
- Reducing structural barriers to emotional wellbeing – promoting access to education and employment, decent housing and increasing the ‘voice’ of marginalised groups5.
The FORESIGHT project by the Office of Science described the evidence-base for factors that influence emotional wellbeing:
Social isolation and injury has been found to be as significant a predictor of premature mortality as smoking:6
- The premature mortality has been demonstrated irrespective of smoking, drinking, substance misuse, physical inactivity, etc. In practice, it is likely that all these factors are additively associated with the effects of social injury and isolation.
- Psycho-neuro-immune mechanisms involving cortisol, dopamine and (under-activity of) oxytocin have been posited to be vehicles by which adverse social and psychological experience are translated into untoward biological changes7;
- The damaging biological changes themselves have been identified as shortened telomerase length8 9 10. (Telomeres are repeating DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes).
Social injury is a cause of mental ill-being and social connectedness as one of five ways to wellbeing,
Taking opportunities to publicise the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ through media, education, leisure facilities and particularly in workplaces, has minimal cost but potential for improving health and social functioning.
Mental Health and Wellbeing in Workplace:
- Successful interventions to promote well-being, prevent and manage mental health problems in the workplace require a multi-level approach involving a combination of actions at an organisation wide and team level as well as measures targeted at individuals11 12 13.
- Large employers with strong HR support will find this less of a challenge, whereas small to medium sized employers will require additional assistance to enable them to undertake the systemic and cultural changes that may be required. A range of well tested tools are available to support integrated, multi-level programmes14.
- Adopting a whole workplace approach which starts with promotion of well-being for all staff will assist in promoting resilience but will also create an environment in which support and preventive measures for people experiencing stress or mental health problems at work is possible.
- Creating a positive and open environment can help to reduce stigma as well as enabling early intervention. A workplace with these systems and approaches in place will be welcoming to those with lived experience of mental health problems, and may provide an opportunity for those moving from employment support to join the mainstream labour market15.
- Making the business case for employers and creating incentives: in addition to communicating the economic arguments for improving mental health in the workplace, it is also important to support employers to recognize that there are strong health and safety imperatives with the European Agency for Occupational Safety and Health identifying a number of key components of successful workplace interventions such as: a whole workplace approach; strong management commitment; meaningful employee involvement; a designated lead; on-going evaluation; and effective internal communication. Award schemes have also been found to provide effective incentives in some countries. 14
- Linking organisations and promoting the sharing of resources may assist with provision of support for small and medium sized enterprises that lack HR or access to occupational health services. 15