More and more Governments are putting Wellbeing and Mental Fitness at the heart of their purpose and policy making. The growing understanding of the cost of Mental Health to national economies paired with realisations about the potential of wellbeing to be a driving force in an ‘Economy of Well-Being’ is putting the topic centre stage as a policy tool and lever of social, economic and cultural development.
We’ve previously explored what Governments and policy makers can learn from some of the countries leading the way in creating wellbeing economies and forging their way towards the top of the rankings in the World Happiness Report. Some of these insights such as replacing GDP with new “wellbeing focused” measures of national growth can feel like big changes.
But just as with Mental Fitness in individuals and organisations, sometimes smaller steps are as important as the bigger leaps.
This is powerfully expressed in a call to arms by PWC Middle East. Their recent report “Making mental wellbeing a national priority: Actions to build resilience” explores a wide range of “small steps” policy makers can take which collectively can have a big impact on the economy, society and culture. The report is brimming with recommendations
One of the biggest insights for us in the report is around the importance of bringing wellbeing and Mental Fitness into the National conversation. In many societies awareness of Mental Health’s impact and the potential for strengthened resilience to improve productivity is not yet fully present in National debates.
This can be simply due to the emerging nature of the conversation about Mental Health all around the world (with the challenges of Covid-19 recently adding much more urgency to this) and in some part still the stigmas or unfamiliarity of talking about Mental Health. The PWC report reflects upon how in the MENA region, awareness of mental health issues has risen, especially among younger people. For example, the 2019 Arab Youth Survey found that 31% of young Arabs knew of someone who was afflicted by a mental health issue. But 48% of respondents also reported that seeking medical care for mental health was viewed negatively by people in their country.
But small changes can make big differences. A technology led intervention in the remote rural region of Andhra Pradesh in India by The George Institute screened 5,167 and found that around 5% of participants required clinical intervention. None of these had been previously diagnosed for mental health conditions. But a further side impact of the program was a reduction in prejudices around mental illness helping persuade local people that feeling anxious, depressed or fearful was ‘normal’.
Overall the report makes some key recommendations. The key to these is measurement.
Just as any organisation should align their wellbeing strategy on insight, data and KPIs, governments can make big steps with Mental Fitness by incorporating measures of wellbeing and mental health into existing health structures and policy frameworks.
“Wellbeing measures should be embedded in policymaking across not just healthcare but the whole public sector, to help address the wider determinants of health, such as education, housing and employment…Developing a well-funded national wellbeing outcomes framework which embeds mental wellbeing targets into outcomes measurements, strategies and policies … (will enable Government to) Publicise data and analysis to raise awareness and reduce social stigma related to mental wellbeing.”
Just as daily practices of resilience can build inner strength over time, small initiatives can begin to have a ripple effect heralding bigger changes. Creating a wellbeing economy, culture and society starts by making wellbeing a bigger part of the conversation. Each of us can play our own role in this at both an individual and organisational level.
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