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Why the Modern Business Cares About Their Employees' Mental Health

20/05/2015 09:04 BST | Updated 18/05/2016 10:59 BST

Back in 2013, a high-profile financier, with more accolades to his name than zeroes in his salary, "came out". Two years prior, another followed suit. What they both shared in their high-profile roles was matched by one other significant factor: they both "came out", of course, in admitting to mental health problems.

Their names? Hector Sants, the one-time head of the UK financial regulator, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), who led the institution at the height of the financial crisis, when even the most pura vida-loving Costa Rican may have had a heart bypass. The second was António Horta-Osório, chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, who took a leave of absence on doctors' advice.

Ok, perhaps they didn't explicitly term their need for a time out because of 'mental health', but carefully worded statements surrounding "stress" and "exhausation" and "late-nights", amounted to a depressingly difficult days at the office.

That cocktail and - dare I say it - "mental health" challenges are not the preserve of high-profile corporate execs on many zeros-a-year salaries any more.

Mental health - in whatever shade you describe it - is now not only Big Business with the cataract of 'wellness' offerings available, from yoga to mindfulness and meditation, but is seeping its way into the corporate culture of the world's biggest organisations.

Last week Mental Health Awareness Week was marked all over the world and this year the subject was mindfulness.

Close to taking on cult status in corporate America, according to executive coach, Dr. David Brendel, the practise encourages an immersion in the present and aims to change the way people think and feel about their emotions.

The annual UK event - in its 14th year - comes at a time when the modern business, is paying closer attention to the mental wellbeing of its employees than ever before.

That bastion of all things search, Google, encouraged its employees to "Search Inside Yourself" in its free course that teaches emotional intelligence through meditation.

Accenture - the global management consulting firm - has health and wellness centres.

Goldman Sachs is another.

Deepak Chopra, a global thought leader on spirituality, recently spoke of a Wall Street hedge fund manager friend whose staff meditates, making them much more "productive, because they're... not distracted."

Members at the top table of business claimed in January, at Davos no less, that meditation gives them a competitive advantage, according to the New York Times.

In modern business, boasting a mentally agile workforce is equally important as having a safe working environment.

A 2014 PwC report claimed that for every dollar invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace, $2.30 is generated in benefits to a company.

But just what is mental health - and can we talk about it publicly?

One dictionary definition brackets it as a person's condition in regards to psychological and emotional wellbeing. Recent statistics claim that one in four of us will have a "mental health problem" in any year, according to Time for Change - an anti-stigma campaign run by UK mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

In Britain, suicide - the biggest killer of men under 50 - wipes out more than terrorism, road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease, totalling 5,981 deaths in 2012. Nearly one in two people in the US will suffer from depression, anxiety disorders or another mental health ailment.

Such shocking stats calls for a wider debate around mental health, that goes far beyond the boardroom.

The modern business - and professional - understands that prevention is far better than cure. Heard of the exhausted exec shelling out thousands on therapy and Far Eastern wellness retreats? The frazzled CEO taking time out because of "stress"? It need never happen, if mindful techniques are built into your weekly programme - just like pumping those dumbbells in the gym.

Here are five mental wellbeing tips the modern business can incorporate into their corporate culture:

Emotional Intelligence Training...

Why do smart people under perform? Your very best performers shine in the most stressful and difficult situations. Leveraging emotional intelligence trainers can transform your business from good to great.

Meditation Programmes...

Meditation is a type of mind-body medicine that was originally used to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. Today it is commonly used to help restore calm and reduce stress and anxiety.

Mindfulness...

Currently all the rage in corporate America, mindfulness is a branch of meditation that heightens awareness of the present moment. Harry Potter star Emma Watson and TV personality Davina McCall are fans.

Yoga...

Sanskrit for "divine union", yoga's rise to a $27billion business has been fuelled by benefits such as improving flexibility, mind-body alliance, alleviating depression and increasing a sense of calm.

Company Wellness Retreats...

Instead of a work jolly, help your team de-stress, unwind and recharge with a mind-clearing vacation that helps to shape your company's future.