Spotting the red flags of mental health


Springfox has just released its biennial global resilience report, which explores the state of mental health and resilience and CEO Stuart Taylor explains how men can spot the red flags of mental ill-health in themselves and those around them.

The report shows that prior to forced WFH, many Australians were already plagued by excessive worry, fatigue and self-criticism. The research also found that 40% reported low levels of personal resilience and were at risk of ‘occupational burnout’.

Within the context of COVID-19, resilience levels are only set to deteriorate further if interventions aren’t put in place. Social isolation, changes to ways of working, and the pressure to provide value in challenging and fast-evolving environments are significant factors that could put people at much greater risk of experiencing mentalhealth issues and burnout.

Springfox’s just-released COVID People Survey shows that worry and stress have not only continued but increased for 52% of men.

What are some of the red flags for mental illness and burnout?

  1. Negative mood – an unusual and extended decline in mood around anxiety, worry, anger and especially deep sadness is the most obvious red flag. Please check in with someone you know who is experiencing this.
  2. Excessive self-criticism – while it is healthy to challenge behaviours and thoughts, this becomes a red flag when it becomes an obsession. This is likely a contributor to mental ill-health in the first place.
  3. Fatigue and insomnia – interestingly, fatigue and exhaustion have shown up beside worry and stress as prevalent emotions during COVID-19. Be on the lookout for that friend or colleague who looks continuously depleted, is expressing their lack of energy, or can’t sleep.
  4. Disturbed appetite – can present as over-consumption or under-consumption.
  5. Social withdrawal – as with all red flags this is seen in a relative sense to normal behaviour. Clearly, this is harder to observe given our COVID isolation rules.
  6. Low motivation – when a normally self-actualised person is struggling to get out of bed” or engage in the activities that normally spark their energy, this should be a red flag worth exploring, particularly if it is ongoing. This can be seen with low productivity and also excessive time off work.
  7. Alcohol and substance abuse – increased alcohol or cigarette consumption or use of illicit or harmful substances.
  8. Low Libido – while there can be numerous medical explanations for a low sex drive, combined with the other red flags, this paints a rich picture for mental ill-health and burnout.

How can we maintain mental well-being and resilience in the face of such challenging times and beyond?

  1. Stay connected. Having strong, positive relationships with friends and family is important for maintaining mental well-being. Stay connected and spend time enjoying the presence of loved ones daily – whether this is over a phone call or through sharing a meal together.
  2. Focus on what brings joy. All work and no play will quickly place you on the fast-track to burnout. Avoid viewing leisure as a luxury and make time to enjoy the things you love doing. Hobbies are beneficial for mental performance and play a key role in maintaining resilience, especially in isolation.
  3. Prioritise sleep. Sleep is vital for a healthy body and mind. Lock in your wake-up time 7 days a week and encourage a restful, restorative sleep by cutting out caffeine after 2pm.
  4. Commit to regular exercise. Exercise plays an integral role in both mental and physical well-being by promoting cardiovascular fitness and boosting endorphin levels.
  5. Practice meditation and mindfulness. Being in tune with your emotions will help protect your mental well-being in stressful times. If it’s not something you’ve regularly done before, give guided meditation apps a try.
  6. Aim for realistic optimism. Particularly in times of isolation and uncertainty, our thoughts are more likely to become pessimistic and irrational. It is critical that we catch, check and change our thoughts to be more realistic and optimistic so we can maintain hope and move forward with purpose.
  7. Invest in building resilience. Resilience is learnable. Springfox found that engaging in resilience-building training improves resilience by 38% and positively impacts mental illness by 32% on average compared to an antidepressant which on average sits between 3-9%.

Springfox CEO Stuart Taylor


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