TED Talks For The Workplace – Mental Health

To help your team embrace Mental Health Awareness Month, we’ve compiled a list of empowering TED Talks that will provide us with education about the subject and find simple ways to talk about mental health at work.

In addition to the curated list of videos, we have provided discussion prompts to help navigate sensitive topics with your team.

We live in a culture that doesn’t take mental health issues seriously. There is still stigma and discrimination associated with it. The pandemic, on the other hand as one of the most unusual experiences any of us have ever had has made us aware that mental illness is real and that it affects even the strongest and healthiest of people.

Ending the stigma requires education and awareness of mental health issues, as well as knowledge of recent advances in modern brain science. A better knowledge of mental health will lead to better treatment for individuals in need.

Let’s dive in!

How to Practice Emotional First Aid | Guy Winch

How is the talk: Inspiring, funny, relatable, and easy to understand.

What we like the most: Psychologist Guy Winch introduced us to unfamiliar terms like “psychological wounds”, “psychological injuries”, and “emotional hygiene”; terms that make us convinced that psychological health is equal to physical health.

Key messages to be learned

  1. It is time to close the gap between physical and mental health. We value physical health more than psychological health. Psychological injuries such as rejection, failure, or loneliness, happen more frequently than physical injuries. If we ignore them, they might become worse and have a significant impact on our lives.
  2. Our body and mind are deeply connected. It means that our emotions frequently influence how we feel physically–we even use words like “heartache” and “gut-wrenching” to express these sensations.
  3. It is impossible to treat a psychological wound if we are unaware of it. Physical injuries like loneliness can have a huge impact on our general health–especially when it becomes chronic. Chronic loneliness is just as harmful to our long-term health and longevity as cigarette smoking. Loneliness, on the other hand, doesn’t come with a “This could kill you” warning. That’s why it’s so important that we place a high value on mental well-being and practice a routine of emotional hygiene.

How to practice emotional aid?

  • Pay attention to emotional pain

Another psychological wound: failure. When we fail, our minds try to convince us that we’re incapable of something and we believe it. Our minds are resistant to change when we are convinced of something so it is very natural to feel disheartened and defeated following a failure. This is where we need to pay attention to how our mind reacts to failure and gain control over the situation.

  • Stop emotional bleeding

Take “rejection” as another example of a psychological wound. Rejection is extremely painful. It causes us to overthink all of our flaws and weaknesses. We did it to ourselves at a time when our self-esteem was already hurting. We wouldn’t intentionally make a physical injury worse, yet we do it all the time with psychological injuries. Why? Due to a lack of emotional hygiene–we don’t put our psychological well-being first.

  • Protect your self-esteem

When we have poor self-esteem, we are more susceptible to stress and anxiety, which means that failure and rejection hurt more and take longer to heal. Reviving our self-esteem is the first step in dealing with rejection.

  • Battle negative thoughts

We are increasing our chances of developing clinical depression by spending so much time ruminating on upsetting events and negative thoughts. Rumination is a difficult habit to stop but it doesn’t mean that we can’t break the urge. Each time we have a negative thought, we must force ourselves to redirect our attention until the urge passes. According to studies, even two minutes of distractions is enough to calm the urge to ruminate at that time.

Discussion prompts for team leaders

  1. What emotional hygiene issues do you need to address?
  2. How to practice emotional hygiene in the workplace?
  3. When you’re feeling lonely or socially/emotionally isolated, what steps should you take?
  4. What are unhealthy psychological habits that you’d like to break?
  5. What kind of work environment would exist if everyone was psychologically healthier?

Looking to create a meaningful health and wellness event for your team?

Read this post for 12 Ways to Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month.

The Power of Vulnerability | Brené Brown

How is the talk: Insightful, witty, and heartfelt

What we like the most: Dr. Brené Brown debunks some myths about vulnerability, the most popular of them is that vulnerability indicates weakness. When we recall times when we felt vulnerable or emotionally exposed, we are actually recalling moments of great courage.

Key messages to be learned:

  • The majority of us fail to recognize that vulnerability is the home of the feelings and experiences we seek. Vulnerability is where love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity are born. From Dr. Brown’s twelve years of research, we learn that what scares us may be good for us, and if we’re willing to sit with it, vulnerability has the potential to transform itself into joy.
  • Wearing emotional armor is damaging. Each morning, as we start the day, we emotionally “armor up” in order to escape feelings of shame, anxiety, insecurity, and fear. While the armor is unique to each individual, it typically centers on one of three methods: striving for perfection, numbing out, or ruining joyous moments by “dress rehearsing tragedy” and visualizing all the ways things could go wrong. All of these types of armor may temporarily make us feel secure and “in control,” but they are actually doing us more damage than good.
  • Mindfulness is a good place to recognize moments of vulnerability and work with them. When you cultivate openness and awareness of your environment, as well as your own thoughts, feelings, and triggers, you’ll be able to notice when you’re disengaging out of fear. You will be more certain about what changes you want to see in your life once you are aware of where you are.

How to Embrace Vulnerability?

  • Vulnerability takes courage.

Acknowledge that facing vulnerability requires a great deal of courage. Take small steps (for example, asking someone what they are thinking) and be proud of your bravery.

  • Show up, face fear, and move forward

Allow yourself to be free of constant worry about what others think of you. The majority of individuals are preoccupied with their own personal conflicts, not with yours.

  • Seek excellence, not perfection

Make no attempt to be perfect—in fact, make no attempt at all. Nobody is perfect, and the more you cling to an unrealistic goal, the more easily you will surrender.

  • Dare to be yourself

Vulnerability allows you to accept and embrace many facets of yourself. This can promote a strong sense of self-worth and authenticity.

Discussion Prompts for Team Leaders:

  1. Why do we need to be vulnerable at work?
  2. How do you show vulnerability at work?
  3. Can ‘vulnerability’ be used to foster a culture of trust in the workplace?
  4. How open should you be with your coworkers?
  5. In showing vulnerability at work, what examples can you set for others? Where do you start?

What’s So Funny About Mental Illness? | Ruby Wax

How is the talk: Heartening, Hilarious.

What we like the most: Ruby Wax, a comedian, and mental health activist spoke about her own experiences with mental illness and being institutionalized, emphasizing the prevalence of mental illness and drawing attention to the stigma associated with it.

Key messages to be learned:

  • A common stigma associated with mental illness; people believe that by simply cheering up or trying to be positive, mental illness may be treated. Implying that someone with a mental illness can be treated with a simple attitude adjustment is like telling someone with diabetes to think happy thoughts instead of taking insulin. Mental illness can be a serious condition that frequently requires specialized care.
  • Mental illness is by no means imaginary. Because there is no tangible evidence to support the diagnosis of a chemical imbalance, people struggle to believe that mental illness is real. Not only does this mindset devalue the emotional symptoms of mental illness, but it also dismisses the numerous physical symptoms associated with mental illnesses, such as fatigue, a churning gut, muscle pains, interrupted sleep, and weight loss or gain.
  • If society does not continue to discuss the negative impacts of mental illness and learn how to cope, the number of people suffering from mental illness will rise to 100%. Educate yourself, pass on facts and positive attitudes; challenge myths and stereotypes.

Discussion Prompts for Team Leaders

  1. How to end workplace mental health stigma?
  2. What should you not say to someone with a mental illness?
  3. What is the best response you may say to someone who is struggling?

Love, no matter what | Andrew Solomon

How’s the talk: wonderful and moving speeches, insightful and genuine.

What we like the most: Andrew Solomon’s profoundly moving talk discusses how a diagnosis of illness can impact one’s identity. Solomon provides stunning insight into homosexuality, dwarfism, and Downs Syndrome through his exploration of vertical and horizontal identities. “People engage with the life they have, and they don’t want to be cured or changed or eliminated — they want to be whoever it is that they’ve come to be.”

Key messages to be learned:

  • Diversity is what unites us. Through the power of love and acceptance, identities that differ from the parents, which Solomon refers to as “horizontal identities,” can transform from illnesses to full-fledged identities.
  • What’s the line between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance? Ideally, love would exist unconditionally throughout a parent-child relationship but acceptance is something that always takes time.

Discussion prompts for team leaders:

  1. Why do we need diversity in the workplace?
  2. How can you make workplace diversity a continuous process rather than a promotional item?
  3. How to help employees feel comfortable expressing themselves?

The Power of Introverts | Susan Cain

How’s the talk: insightful, inspiring, and encouraging.

What we like the most: Author Susan Cain makes an important and convincing argument for a society that values all personality types equally.

Key messages to be learned:

  • Nobody can be a pure introvert or extrovert. Carl Jung, a psychologist who popularized the introversion-extraversion personality theory, believed that classifications such as introversion and extroversion were only points of reference. There were well-balanced individuals who drew influence from both the outside world and their internal thoughts, either heavily or sparingly. When individuals are either highly well-balanced or neurotic, it’s difficult to determine whether they tend toward introversion or extroversion–we called these people Ambiverts.
  • While many of us identify as one of these two types, we need a much greater balance in terms of creativity and productivity.
  • Solitude matters. It is a crucial ingredient to creativity. According to most psychologists, the most creative people are people who are very good at exchanging ideas and advancing ideas but who also have a serious streak of introversion in them.

How to Maintain a Balance between Introverts and Extroverts types at Work?

  • Stop the madness of constant group work.

While the workplace should encourage informal conversation which is beneficial for both introverts and extroverts, they also need to provide much more privacy, more autonomy, and more freedom at work.

  • Go to wilderness

Be like Buddha. Have your own revelations. We could all stand to unplug more frequently and spend more time alone with our thoughts and ideas.

  • You do You.

Take a good look at yourself and contemplate what makes you enjoy being yourself. Whatever it is, do it to the fullest.

Discussion prompts for team leaders:

  1. How does your personality affect your performance?
  2. What value do extroverts and introverts bring to the workplace?
  3. How to manage introverted employees?
  4. How to manage extroverted employees?

What’s Normal Anxiety — and What’s an Anxiety Disorder? — Body Stuff | Dr. Jen Gunter

How is the talk: educative, well-informed, reassuring

What we like the most: Dr. Jen Gunter’s discussion of the difference between anxiety disorder and normal anxiety provides validation for individuals who are physically and emotionally afflicted by the symptoms.

Key messages to be learned:

  • Anxiety disorder is as real as diabetes. Severe anxiety is not a moral or personal failing, it’s a health problem, just high blood pressure or diabetes. It needs to be treated with the same kind of seriousness.
  • Anxiety is a very real and normal emotion we feel in a stressful situation. It’s related to fear. While fear is an immediate response to a perceived threat that passes quickly, anxiety is a response to more uncertain threats that lasts far longer.
  • Studies have shown that people with anxiety disorders don’t just have a different way of reacting to stress, there may be actual differences in how their brain is working.
  • There is a treatment to cure anxiety and that you don’t have to suffer. Remember that it’s not about weakness, it’s about changing brain patterns.

How to reorganize and rewire your brain to reduce anxiety?

Do the basics

Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get a sufficient amount of sleep. As your mind is also part of your body, it might be helpful to try meditation. Instead of our heart rate increasing and our bodies tensing, we can slow down the fight or flight reaction through mindful breathing and improve how we feel in the moment.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

A form of talk therapy can also be fantastic. It teaches you how to recognize distressing thoughts and assess whether they are realistic. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can gradually re-establish those neural pathways that act as a buffer against the anxiety response.

Medication can also give relief

In the short term, anti-anxiety drugs can down-regulate the threat detection mechanisms that are going into overdrive. Anxiety disorders, like high blood pressure and diabetes, can be treated or managed with time.

Discussion prompts for team leaders:

  1. What is work anxiety?
  2. What are the symptoms of work anxiety?
  3. What are the effects of work anxiety?
  4. How to help your employee to cope with work anxiety?

How to Discover Your “Why” in Difficult Times | Simon Sinek

How’s the talk: Inspiring, sincere, heartfelt.

What we like the most: Simon is well-grounded. He shared his experiences and wisdom with vulnerability, compassion, and authenticity.

Key messages to be learned:

  • Mental illness is a real thing and it affects strong and healthy people.
  • Everyone has experienced trauma throughout the COVID era. however, the value of human connection might assist us in dealing with it. Adhere to the ‘no crying alone’ rule within your team. When no one feels left behind, a great sense of safety will exist, which is something we all crave as human beings.
  • Invest in people, nurture a good relationship with people both when we’re doing good and even when we don’t think we need anybody.
  • There’s tremendous value in the act of service. When we genuinely help someone who is going through a similar situation, it can be the most healing thing we can do. If we require someone to cry with, it is time to lend our shoulder to a friend in need. If we are lonely, it is to be there for someone else who is struggling with loneliness.
  • Try a statement like “I’m worried about you”, or “You are not the person I know” instead of a question like ‘How are you’. When you offer your ‘act of service’, do it with love and empathy. Don’t show up to solve the problem. In dealing with difficult times, you show up to create an environment in which they’d be willing to open up to you.
  • Everyone is a leader. Leadership has nothing to do with rank or title. Leadership is the responsibility to see those around us rise. It’s about taking care of those in our charge.

What is the exercise to discover your ‘WHY’ in difficult times?

  • Friend Exercise

Find a friend you love and who loves you. The kind of person that if they called you at 3 am in the morning, you would pick up the call and you would do the same for them. Do not do this with a sibling or a spouse or parents because that relationship is too close. Do it with a best friend, ask a simple question: “why are we friends?”. This is such a hard question to answer and eventually they will give up and start describing themselves.  They will articulate the value you have in their life and you will have some sort of emotional response: goosebumps, you’ll well up. Because what they’re telling you is your WHY— the thing you give to the world.

Discussion prompts for team leaders:

  1. What is your WHY?
  2. How to find your WHY?
  3. Why is your WHY important?

Mental Health for All by Involving All | Vikram Patel

How’s the talk: eye-opening, addressing the problem directly, and providing the solutions.

What we like the most: Psychiatrist Vikram Patel proposes an extremely promising strategy – teaching community members to provide mental health interventions, empowering ordinary people to care for others.

Key messages to be learned:

  • The difference in the quality of medical care received by people with mental illness is one of the reasons why they live shorter lives than people without mental illness. Even in the best-resourced countries in the world, the life expectancy gap is much as 20 years while in the developing countries, the gap is even larger.
  • Mental illnesses are amongst the leading causes of disability around the world. Depression for example is the third leading cause of disability, alongside conditions such as diarrhea and pneumonia in children. When you put all the mental illnesses together, they account for roughly 15 percent of the total global burden of disease.
  • What’s truly important and worrying from a global point of view is that the vast majority of these affected individuals do not receive the care that we know can transform their lives. However, we do have robust evidence that a range of interventions like medicines, and psychological and social interventions, can make a vast difference. And yet, even in the best-resourced countries (for example Europe), roughly 50% of affected people don’t receive these interventions.
  • Mental health discrimination is not surprising. If you should speak to anyone affected by a mental illness, the chances are you will hear stories of hidden suffering, shame, and discrimination in nearly every sector of their lives.
  • To implement the slogan of Health for All, we will need to involve all. People who are affected by mental illness and their caregivers need to stand together, shoulder to shoulder and advocate the rights of people with mental illness to receive the care that we know can transform their lives and to live a life with dignity.

Discussion prompts for team leaders:

  1. How to end mental health discrimination?
  2. How do you support employees who are struggling?
  3. What resources you can provide to improve mental health and stress management?

Why Students Should Have Mental Health Days | Hailey Hardcastle

How’s the talk: inspiring and empowering.

What we like the most: Hailey outlines the transition from the assumption that mental health is “not important” to the belief that it is so critical that you now have the right to take days off from school to care for it.

Key messages to be learned:

  • While not everyone has a diagnosed mental illness, all of you have mental health. All of us have a brain that needs to be cared for in similar ways that we care for our physical well-being.
  • Mental illness manifests itself in some physical ways, such as nausea, headaches, fatigue, and shortness of breath. It’s due to our mind and body is intensely intertwined.
  • Not only should mental health days be implemented in schools, but they should also be adopted in the workplace. Mental Health Days save lives. At school, it can help keep track of how many students take and how many mental health days. If a student takes too many, they’ll be referred to a school counselor for a check-in. This is important because we can help individuals who are struggling before it’s too late.
  • Oftentimes, the most difficult step is taking the first step and seeking assistance. However, the law or the guidelines governing ‘Mental Health Days’ can assist in this. Mental Health Days will teach children how to care for themselves and practice self-care and stress management at an early age. Employees will receive the same benefits if their workplace has a similar mental health policy.
  • When it comes to a physical crisis, we are taught to manage it at an early age but not with a mental health crisis. That’s why it’s important for us–both at school and workplace– to be equipped with a toolkit or skills to help a friend, coworker, or family member going through a mental crisis.

Discussion prompts for team leaders:

  1. What are the benefits of Mental Health Days for your employees?
  2. What are the signs that your employees need to take Mental Health Days?
  3. How to make sure employees use their Mental Health Days?

How to Stay Calm When You Know You’ll Be Stressed | Daniel Levitin

How’s the talk: well-informed, comforting, and helpful.

What we like the most: Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin shows us how easy it is to get stressed, and how we may plan ahead of time to effectively deal with difficult situations.

Key messages to be learned:

  • Stress clouds your thinking. It causes you to perform poorly in whatever task you are attempting at the time. This can lead to greater stress, leaving you unable to do even the most basic activities.
  • It’s important to recognize that all of us are flawed. We all are going to fail now and then.
  • The idea is to think ahead to what those failures might be. Give yourself as much rational thought as possible so that you are prepared for any eventuality that might prevent you from doing what needs to be done.

Discussion prompts for team leaders:

  1. Are you good at making decisions under pressure?
  2. What triggers a feeling of stress, and what are your physiological responses?
  3. How to maintain boundaries between home and work life?
  4. What are your stress-management goals?

Closing Thoughts

We learn from the talks that to be successful in promoting mental health and wellness in the workplace, we must embrace the equality of physical and mental health, as well as eliminate the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. It requires continuous learning, reliable resources, inclusive work culture, and a great sense of work camaraderie.

It’s Not Weak to Speak

Talking to others about your mental health is not a sign of weakness. On the opposite, it shows a great amount of strength. With the courage to talk about your mental health, you help yourself, your company, and future employees who may face similar difficulties.

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