Managing mental health requires authenticity (pt 2)

Managing mental health requires authenticity (pt 2)

[This is the continuation of my reflection I wrote last Sunday. I’m happy to share my most recent opinion article published via Managing for Society:]

The legitimacy of advocating for mental health and holistic well-being relies heavily on all stakeholders committing to authenticity. How can organizations and its members do so?

Fr. Bernard Lonergan, as explained by Fr. David Coghlan, defined authenticity as a combination of being (referring to “transcendental precepts”) and doing (specifically the “general empirical method”). The transcendental precepts and activities can be summarized as: being attentive to experiences, being intelligent in understanding, being reasonable in judging and being responsible in acting. These should be practiced at least across individual (first-person) and organizational (second-person) levels.

Transferring this line of thinking to managing and organizing for mental health, I propose the following framework:

1. Pay attention to mental health experiences and measures. Since mental health is not easily observable, we must spend time and attention in surfacing evidence and indicators. We can borrow tools from psychologists in terms of measuring mental health and other dimensions of well-being. Self-report surveys can help provide quantitative representations of well-being levels while dialogues and debriefings can help provide qualitative evidence of well-being experiences. For example, in our academic internship program, interns periodically answer surveys and join debriefing sessions to help make sense of their work experiences and struggles.

2. Be intelligent and sensitive in understanding. Quantitative and qualitative measurements do not necessarily provide the reasons and context why well-being levels are suffering or flourishing. It is critical to apply both critical and creative thinking in understanding how mental health levels fluctuate. To do so, organizations must be open to trends and latest research while providing platforms for stakeholders to voice their concerns. For example, our internship debriefing sessions have allowed us to understand how the online work context deprives our interns a sense of autonomy and fulfillment because work arrangements can seem purely mechanical and transactional.

3. Be reasonable and tolerant in evaluating. It is tempting to compare without reasonably looking at the various contexts that surround each stakeholder. We must avoid snap judgements without assessing the full circumstance of a person. For example, there are instances in our internship program when a student’s subpar mental health is more a function of a company’s lack of mentorship — treating the intern as just an extra resource. On the other hand, there are situations when the subpar mental health is due to an intern’s own mismanagement of projects, leading to rework and anxiety. In these instances, whether accountability falls on the intern, faculty adviser or company super mentor, we provide opportunities for feedback for all stakeholders. This leads to pointed recommendations and action plans.

4. Be responsible in decisions and actions. Discovering the state and drivers of poor mental health compels the responsible manager to act and follow through. Failure to act risks delegitimizing mental health initiatives as lip service. Continuous monitoring and interventions are a must to cultivate an organizational culture that is authentically pro-flourishing. For example, failure of our internship administration team to act on well-being reports can make it seem that student sentiments are not recognized. On a more positive note, our commitment to post-internship debriefing sessions provide spaces for student voices to be heard and opportunities to improve our internship program.

As we can take away from this framework, imbibing these transcendental precepts and performing the general empirical method leads to reinforcing cycles that promote holistic well-being. Furthermore, if we are to truly legitimize and advocate for mental health, we must commit to authenticity.

Luke 19:1-10. “Today salvation has come to this house…”


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