Chief of Research, Workforce Productivity, Organizational Performance
This op-ed was originally published in The Globe and Mail on January 30, 2019.
Once a year you visit your medical doctor for an annual physical checkup to check in on your physical health and for the prevention and early detection of disease. At your physical, your doctor will determine if you need any other tests, such as checking your cholesterol levels, in order to keep you healthy and in good shape.
When we understand and buy into the benefits of getting a regular physical it can help motivate us to repeat this process year after year. We know this helps preserve our physical health and well-being so we can enjoy a long and healthy life.
However, when it comes to mental health many of us do not consider seeing a doctor or professional about our mental health unless we felt there was something drastically wrong.
This may be part of the problem why so many Canadians are experiencing mental health challenges. They are missing the opportunity for early intervention. For example, if took a blood test and it showed higher levels of cholesterol that might influence you to change your lifestyle to increase your exercise and improve your diet.
Mental health, like our physical health, can benefit from a proactive mental health checkup to provide information about our status and help us make a plan to influence our actions and change our behaviour.
The purpose of this micro skill is to promote the benefits for being proactive and screening our mental health, just as we do our physical health. Mental health can be like physical health where we evaluate what we are doing daily to support and promote it. A mental health checkup is like a physical as it helps evaluate risk.
Getting a mental health checkup does not mean you need to have a reason or be experiencing any mental health stress. A mental health checkup is adding a proactive step where you intentionally focus on your mental health to determine if there has been any change both positive and negative.
One of the biggest barriers for early intervention for anyone experiencing mental health challenges is a personal lack of awareness. The first step is to become aware of the benefit of doing a mental health checkup.
Science has taught us that some physical health related chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes could be greatly reduced or even avoided through our lifestyle choices. The research suggests that a person who pays attention to his or her diet and level of exercise will be at less risk for type 2 diabetes.
We take charge of our physical health by getting an annual checkup and that helps for early detection and intervention. Mental health is the same. It requires you to make a conscious decision to be proactive and complete a mental health checkup.
A mental health checkup can be completed by a registered mental health professional.
The purpose of a mental health checkup is to facilitate regular screening. These checkups are meant to pick up on any risk factors to determine if you need to see the doctor for more evaluation.
A quick mental health checkup
Most of us struggle with finding time to do a mental health checkup. This micro skill recommends completing a quick mental health checkup to screen you for potential risks at least once a year.
1. Complete mental health checkup screening tool – In 2014, The Globe and Howatt HR launched a free on-line screening tool called the Your Life at Work Survey (a non-clinical tool). Thousands of Canadians each year complete this behavioural-based mental health screen that provides insight regarding how they are managing their stress levels, and coping with the demands at home and work.
Upon completion of the tool, each individual gets a simple one-page report that includes a score. They also get a link to what their score means with some simple recommendations based on their score. Complete the Your Life at Work Survey screening tool here.
2. Action plan – Once you complete the screening tool, the next step is to make the decision on what action you will take as a result of your score and what that indicates about your mental health. It is helpful to have a plan ranging from signing up for a resiliency and coping skills training course to making an appointment with a mental health professional for further screening and support.
If your score in the Your Life at Work Survey screening tool are not where you want, it is up to you make the decision to act or not. Though this is not a clinical screen, it does provide a person who answers the questions with an honest picture of their current situation and habits and how these collectively can be helping or hurting their mental health.