Looking after mental health with… Terrarium gardens?

magenta team brainstormingLast week, the M People got together for our latest quarterly team day. After a general company update and some creative brainstorming, we spent a large portion of the morning talking about mental health wellbeing.

As a member of the Time to Change movement, we want to help end the stigma around mental health and ensure that staff feel supported at work. While we might find it easy to talk about a bad back or a headache, opening up about our feelings of depression or anxiety can be far more difficult.

Through activities such as the stigma quiz (sourced from the Time to Change resource pages) we were able to start an open dialogue with the team and really get them thinking about their mental health. It’s the support we get when we’re struggling that determines how quickly we recover, which is why I feel grateful for the opportunity to undertake Mental Health First Aid training.

Something I would urge any business to do is invest in mental first aid, just as they might have a physical first aider. The course has given me the confidence to provide initial support and be proactive in spotting the early signs. The biggest thing I took away, however, was learning about how our unconscious biases inform the stigma around mental health. These biases can lead us to give misinformation or the wrong advice. It’s easy to jump in with a quick “don’t worry, you’ll be fine” or “have you tried this?” but the most effective thing you can do is stop and listen. Be engaging in your support and your sympathy. Most of the time it’s all we need.

Terrarium with cactiThe second part of our summer team day was by no means your typical team building activity. We headed off for an afternoon of terrarium building. It was fantastic to see how we each approached the task and the results were 10 different but equally beautiful mini gardens for everyone to take home. It was a reminder of how individual we all are and gave everyone a bit more insight into their colleagues’ creativity and expression. Interacting outside of the office environment is important as we only truly open up when we feel more comfortable.

The facts and figures around mental health are startling to say the least. One that I keep returning to is that by 2030 The World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the single leading cause of global disease. Let’s just hope that with more businesses taking a proactive approach to mental health, it’s a prediction that doesn’t come true.

Ben Keeley