Ways to address mental health and prevention in organisations – Interview with Johannes Fell

Could you please introduce yourself and Instahelp to the readers?

I am Johannes Fell and my role within Instahelp is teaming up with companies who recognize the value of psychological assistance for their employees. Together with my colleagues I’m helping them to implement strategies for raising awareness for the importance of mental health and prevention.

Instahelp is an online platform for professional psychological counselling. Via our website, people are guided through a “matching”-process in which we identify their specific needs to suggest them psychologists specialized in this particular field. Within no more than 24h they will  be contacted by their chosen psychologist to start their first counselling session. From there on they can use the service for 40 or 60 minutes per week. We are thereby offering our service to private individuals, companies and their employees as well as insurances offering it to their insurants.

 What are the greatest challenges for organisations in addressing mental health issues and how can they overcome them?

From our point of view the biggest challenge that most companies are facing is still breaking down the barrier of mental health issues and raising awareness towards the topic. The majority of companies is already offering a broad variety of services and activities around physical health, such as free gym memberships, healthy office-snacks etc. While this is of course a very positive trend, mental health is often neglected or only catered “on the side”. Yet the overall health of every individual is based on a good balance of their physical and mental health. This is also reflected by statistics: While the total number of, especially, work-related injuries are on an all-time low, mental health issues have become the no. 2 reason for sick leave in Germany according to the “Techniker Krankenkasse” and the number one reason for illness-related early retirements according to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Germany. Similar statistics apply to many other countries within Europe.

This is what we want to change. The first and at the same time most difficult step thereby is to overcome the stigma.

Mental health issues are per se not the same thing as clinical mental illnesses. Actually, quite the opposite is true. The majority of people suffering from mental health issues are dealing with everyday topics. Stress, relationship issues, anxieties etc. which affect nearly everybody at least once in their life. And while they might not directly be related to the work environment, they certainly can have a negative effect on it. It is thereby important to educate employees that mental health issues are not just limited to depression and burnout but a broad variety of topics. Aside that we are trying to cater an understanding that no problem is too small. Seeking professional help, respectively to have an external partner for your personal “mental hygiene” is key.

The next step is to change the working environment, in the sense that people are not afraid to talk about mental health issues, as they are not necessarily a negative, but a completely normal thing. We are all facing ups and downs, so why not support an employee when they are feeling down? Helping them will not just improve their situation but also show them that they are a valuable member of your staff. This positive reinforcement leads to higher performance levels, reduced absenteeism and a stronger bond to the company.

One way to do this is for example using poster campaigns in which we ask employees, supervisors and management staff to share their personal downs and how they dealt with it. This does not mean that they have to share their “darkest secrets” but simple, humane situations in which they felt they needed help. For example, the death of a loved one, or the joy and at the same time the feeling of being overwhelmed that becoming a parent can result in.

 What trends do you see in terms of channels, which employees use for getting psychological advice?

Digitalization is one of the biggest, if not the biggest trend we are facing in our everyday lifes. We already use our smartphone for nearly everything: from shopping clothes, food or other supplies, to booking a vacation or finding your perfect partner. Especially for younger generations living without a smartphone has more or less become impossible today. At the same time, in our increasingly fast paced world, people want to have access to information and services at the push of a button. Waiting times are only accepted involuntarily.

The same also applies to medical and psychological health services. People often look for advice using Google, reading through online threads or magazines or seeking help by discussing their situation with others online. While in some cases this might be helpful, many times the answers are not always satisfying or professional. By offering a high-quality online service, users can get the professional help they are seeking for anytime, anywhere.

What do organisations and employees appreciate the most about the services from Instahelp?

The flexibility and anonymity of our online setting. The working environment is constantly changing, more and more companies offer home-office, flexible working hours etc. to their employees to foster a better work-life balance. While of course this is not applicable to every job, sitting at your desk from 9 to 5 has become a thing of the past in many industries. Therefore, companies are also seeking services that are as flexible as their own structures. Due to our digital setting employees can use our service at any time, from all around the world just using their smartphone, tablet or PC. Most counselling sessions are attended after 5 pm.

 Could you recommend any useful online resources about mental health in organisations.

Without self-promoting ourselves to much, on our website https://instahelp.me/magazin/ we offer a free online magazine sharing articles related to the topic of mental health for private individuals but also companies. Aside that organisations such as e.g.  https://www.headstogether.org.uk/ also share interesting information on this topic on a regular basis.

What is your favorite quote?

“Every journey begins with a single step” This Chinese proverb also applies to taking care of our mental health.


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