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Thilo Beck at WEF Roundtable - A Roadmap to Sustainable Health and Better Well-being in the Workforce and Society

Goals House Roundtable, World Economic Forum, Davos – Thilo Beck

A Roadmap to Sustainable Health and Better Well-being in the Workforce and Society: Elaborating on Key Points.   We are living through a historical period defined by uncertainty, which is having a profound impact on our mental health. Research shows that – on average, 15% of working-age adults live with a mental health condition globally,…

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Goals House Roundtable, World Economic Forum, Davos – Thilo Beck

Thilo Beck at WEF Roundtable - A Roadmap to Sustainable Health and Better Well-being in the Workforce and Society

A Roadmap to Sustainable Health and Better Well-being in the Workforce and Society: Elaborating on Key Points.

 

We are living through a historical period defined by uncertainty, which is having a profound impact on our mental health. Research shows that – on average, 15% of working-age adults live with a mental health condition globally, with depression and anxiety costing the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. But more than that, we lose 8 million people each year to mental health issues, and excessive workplace stress has been shown to account for over 120,000 deaths each year. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this crisis, disproportionately affecting women and younger individuals. Yet still, mental health remains a neglected global issue, and a pervasive stigma remains in the workplace.

 

Developing and promoting a corresponding mindset and corresponding coping skills in people for a productive, happy, and long life is essential to strengthen our workforce and tackle these ever-worrying rates. In addition to adequate assessment and treatment of mental illness, this requires the promotion and practice of psychological flexibility, non judgmental acceptance of unpleasant emotions and the ability to engage in value-orientated, committed action. In other words, corporations need to create a supportive business culture and focus on techniques to help us tolerate an uncertainty that has never been seen in history. To do that, a whole-of-society approach encompassing a broad spectrum of preventative measures is urgently mandated to ensure a holistic pursuit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

 

In 2015, the United Nations recognised that achieving a better world by 2030 necessitates improved global mental health, as made evident by Goal 3 (promoting health and wellbeing) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, the practical realisation of SDG 3 falls significantly short of its initial aspirations. Mental health disorders – including substance use disorder, anxiety, depression, and burnout, continue to skyrocket across the World. For instance, mental health diagnoses significantly increased in the US in 2023 compared with 2019 (45% vs 31%). In the UK, a recent study found that 20% of all young people have a probable mental health condition.

 

Worse still – stress is a leading cause of mental health issues, and approximately 75% of Americans experience moderate to high levels of stress every single month. Studies also show that the DNA changes induced by stress can lead to mental health conditions like mood and anxiety disorders. For example, in one recent study, researchers added corticosterone – the primary hormone that mice produce in stressful situations – to their drinking water for four weeks. The scientists found that the mice were more anxious during a maze test following exposure to corticosterone. Absenteeism from work is typically five times higher in those who struggle with a mental health condition. Then, even if present at work, diminished productivity is six times more likely in those struggling with their emotional well-being. Hence, full and productive employment – another pillar of the SDGs, as made evident by Goal 8, is impossible without a compassionate yet pragmatic approach to mental health.

 

Hence, corporations need to act. Yet, how do we address ever-burgeoning stress levels that directly result from an ever-increasingly stressful time in history? We have to start focusing on preventative measures, from the propagation of a healthy, physically active lifestyle to the treatment of chronic somatic diseases, moderation of the use of psychotropic substances and the facilitation of mental coping skills.

 

For instance, psychological flexibility is one technique we can all practice in our day-to-day lives that has been shown to increase resilience and decrease emotional suffering. Psychological flexibility involves remaining in the present moment, staying open to experiencing whatever thoughts and feelings (good or bad) and acting in service of our values. This skill enables individuals to embrace change, tolerate uncertainty, and shift perspectives when needed. Psychological flexibility is not about avoiding stress but responding effectively to it, using one's values as a guide. By cultivating this adaptability, individuals enhance their emotional well-being, reduce rigid thought patterns, and foster greater control over their mental and emotional experiences, ultimately promoting overall psychological health.

 

Finally, above all else, incorporating techniques like these into the fabric of our organisation means that we are taking mental health seriously. When we acknowledge that elephant in the room, we work to combat the stigma – and most crucially, we remind our employees that they are seen, which will increase a sense of community. In so doing, it typically sets the wheels in motion for support systems to form and a decreased sense of alienation, both of which are crucial for tolerating uncertainty.

AUTHOR: DR. MED. THILO BECK
Lead Psychiatrist

Dr. Beck serves as the chief consultant psychiatrist at Paracelsus Recovery.
View the profile page of Dr Med. Thilo Beck

 

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