The Impact of Digital On Mental Health

The Impact of Digital On Mental Health

Just a few months ago in July 2017, social networking sites were awash with the story of web developer Madalyn Parker, whose simple work email  turned into a viral sensation overnight.

The email in question informed Madalyn’s colleagues that she would be taking two days off to “focus on her mental health”. Rather than being admonished for her decision, Madalyn was met with thanks from her boss, Ben Congleton, who congratulated her for raising awareness of mental health. Madalyn was so touched that she tweeted the response, which to date has been re-tweeted more than 16,000 times.

Increasing awareness

Stories like Madalyn’s are emblematic of the diminishing stigma around mental health today. We still have a long way to go, but there are many initiatives now being implemented to promote positive mental health both at home and in the workplace.

When it comes to the digital world, we are faced with a double-edged sword: on the one hand, social media is being blamed for increasing self-harm in young people; however workplaces are also trying to reach out  to employees through digital tools.

Digital tools

In December 2016, Stephany Carolan studied the effects of online CBT-based stress management for employees. 90 employees from six UK-based organisations were monitored for work effectiveness and general employee wellbeing. 21 studies were included in the final review, including nine participants with stress, insomnia or depression.

Digital interventions including CBT, mindfulness techniques, problem solving training, and stress and coping mechanisms were studied over seven weeks, with participants utilising computer apps, email, text messages and calls. The results revealed that web-based interventions helped to significantly decrease stress levels as well as depression and distress scores, while workplace effectiveness also improved over time.

Communication is key

One of the greatest challenges for modern workplaces is talking about the problem, which is where digital tools come to the fore. Large corporate chains such as Pizza Hut are implementing initiatives such as “No Shame”, an anonymous internal social network which allows employees to discuss mental health issues, together with a 24-hour helpline. With just 11 per cent of us admitting to discussing mental health issues with a line manager in 2016, these digital tools are a welcome addition to the workplace.

Improving digital mental health in your staff

Coined by the Mental Health Foundation, the term “digital mental health” is defined as using online resources such as self-management guides, message boards or online programmes to improve mental wellbeing. Other treatments such as “e-therapy” use CBT to guide users through online modules with feedback, while “blended care” combines both online and face-to-face treatments.

With 84 per cent of employees experiencing physical, psychological or behavioural symptoms with work as a contributing factor, now is the time to act. Digital mental health resources offer a flexible, diverse range of treatments for employees who may not feel comfortable using traditional methods, and so employers must leverage these opportunities whilst ensuring a better stream of judgement-free communication within their workforce.

Keep an eye out for Odyssey Digital’s next blog, where we’ll be looking at the expectations of employees coming into the digital workplace today versus 10 years ago, and how recruiters are managing these expectations.

About Project

I wrote a series of blogs for my client, recruitment firm Odyssey Digital. This particular blog looks at how digital tools can help mental health in the workplace.

Project Details