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A Positive Approach to Mental Health

The stigma behind "mental health" is unwarranted, essentially because the issues surrounding mental health are generally misunderstood. Mental health is about flourishing ~ not merely the absence of mental illness. Yet when people talk about mental health issues, they are often referring to mental illness including stress, anxiety and depression. For decades psychologists focused on what was wrong with people and until the early nineties that's where their focus was tethered. Thanks to a group of psychologists who had interest in what was "right with people" the field of positive psychology emerged, examining people at their best. What did these people do differently and how could we replicate the behaviour so that more individuals were flourishing in life?

According to Keyes (2005) to flourish in life, the following observable criteria are evident:

Positive Emotions

  1. Positive affect - cheerful, interested in life, calm, peaceful, full of life.

  2. Life satisfaction - life satisfaction or satisfaction with life domains (marriage, parenting, close relationships)

Positive Functioning

  1. Self-acceptance - positive attitudes towards self

  2. Personal growth - seeks challenge, understands potential and pursues development

  3. Purpose in life - own life has direction and meaning

  4. Environmental mastery - exercises ability to select, manage & mold environment

  5. Autonomy - guided by own, socially accepted, personal standards & values

  6. Positive relationships - has or can form warm, trusting, personal relationships

  7. Social acceptance - positive and acknowledgement of human differences

  8. Social actualisation - believes people, groups or society have potential & can grow

  9. Social contribution - sees own daily activities as useful and valuable to society

  10. Social coherence - interested in society and social life & finds them meaningful

  11. Social integration - a sense of belonging to & comfort and support from community

An extensive list, fortunately to be flourishing you need only reach a 'high' level on 1 of the positive emotions and a 'high' level on 6 of the positive functioning criteria. See here for further explanation and here to take the flourishing assessment.

This isn't to say mental illness and the prevention and cure of such is not at a critical point. The incidence of anxiety has doubled since 2008, within the next year 1/5 Australians will experience a mental illness and 85% of Australian workers will experience stress. Business today is so unstable that it has gone as far as borrowing a term from the military (VUCA) to explain the state it now finds itself in (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous). The pace of change is at an all time high with no end in sight; organisations are feeling the pressure, but unfortunately for some it's the leaky bucket scenario. How can we equip our employees to not only function in these turbulent times but flourish?

Rather than get to the point of mental illness, why not equip talent with the skills and support to prevent mental illness? Looking after the well-being of your employees provides an upward spiral to productivity, performance and the bottom line. If medical professionals are calling for a shift toward prospective medicine (rather than reactive) why don't business leaders follow suit?

Kirsten collaborates with organisations and business leaders to harness the talent of their people to help them reach their full potential. Contact her today to tap into your potential and the well-being of your organisation.

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