You see him. There he is. Staring at you, smiling with that big grin. You see the clip board. You see the backpack that sits only two metres away. You know who he is and what he is trying to sell. And, all of a sudden, you wish you went the other way.
The charity sales guy. As you soon as you see him, your mind beings to race. Where do you turn? Is it too late to grab your phone and pretend to be on a call? Or maybe you could suddenly look engrossed into the sign that is coming up and ‘accidentally’ miss him? Or, even better, maybe you can explain that already donate to so many causes already that I couldn’t bear to take another one into your already growing accolade of support?
Or, maybe, as you’ve done each and every other time before, you just put your head down, and turn a blind eye to him.
Now, before I say anything else, I am not saying that I haven’t done this. You almost teach yourself that you have to, otherwise you’ll never get from one end of the city to the next without adding on 15 minutes to the journey and losing at least $10 in the process.
But what this behaviour examples for us is our ability, and ever-growing nature, to turn the blind eye. Unless global warming makes the rising water levels ruin the carpet in my floor, or the scarce number of polar bears knock on my front door, roaring for help (or for us as their next meal), we struggle to feel responsible for something that feels so far away.
And what I’ve slowly beginning to discover is that this is no different in the world of mental health.
I could sit here all day telling you the statistics that you already know. We know a quarter of Australians will suffer from a mental health condition in their lifetime. We know that this means 15 million Australians will be suffering each and every year. We know that workplaces are losing billions of dollars from lost productivity due to mentally unhealthy workplaces. We know that this means our colleagues, friends, and family around us, could very well be suffering from a troubled mind each day. We know this means that they could struggle out of bed and struggle to open up to say I am not OK. But, until that happens, we like to put our heads in the sand and walk on by. It is easier, right?
But that is where it stops. It is simply easier for us, as individuals, and as companies, to turn a blind eye to the blatant and growing issue of mental health in our communities and workplaces. The companies that are investing are doing so reactively or by a way that ticks a box.
“We offer EAP, therefore we offer mental health support. Right?” Wrong.
Workplaces lose $10.9 billion per year from lost productivity, absenteeism, and a lack of presenteeism. Those who consider their workplace mentally unhealthy will take more days off work, be less engaged, and ultimately, will impacting your bottom line.
If your company found out that you were losing even a fraction of that, you would be pouncing on your general managers to sort it out. Leaders globally are trying to figure out what is going on. Why isn’t our business thriving? The truth many companies are not willing to admit yet is that this is because your employees aren’t.
But, no, it is the sales experience, it is the business development ability, it is their lack of technical skills to perform. They are not smart enough, trained enough, good enough at what they do.
Or, maybe, they just haven’t been supported enough, been provided the right mindset, given the right culture. Maybe you don’t have the right leaders in the right places. Maybe employees don’t feel safe.
It is time for businesses to wake up to what is happening, wake up to the potential that addressing mental health has for your employees and your business. Even a thriving company benefits from addressing the very thing that sits within our heads that has a power greater than you could ever realise. A power that we’ve been turning a blind eye to.
It is time to wake up, and take the chance to change lives, change the world, and to change whether your business will be the one they are all talking about that changed the way we saw mental health.