Friday, Jun 24, 2022

Dr. Nick Taylor will help you take control of your mental well-being

“[W]e are now in a time when the topic of mental health is finally being destigmatized in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago.” ~ Dr...

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“[W]e are now in a time when the topic of mental health is finally being destigmatized in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago.” ~ Dr. Nick Taylor.

Welcome back! On this episode of Punk Rock HR, my guest is Dr. Nick Taylor, co-founder and CEO of Unmind. Unmind is a workplace mental health platform that empowers employees to measure, understand and improve their mental wellbeing proactively.   

Today’s conversation talks about empowering your employees with evidence-based digital tools that manage and improve their mental wellbeing, the role of leadership and what wellbeing is, and whether there is an optimal way to operate in the world. If you are a human resources professional or a leader who wants what’s best for your workforce, sit tight and enjoy this conversation with Dr. Nick Taylor of Unmind.


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Punk Rock HR is proudly underwritten by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is a B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head over to thestarrconspiracy.com.

Proactively Addressing Mental Health

Dr. Nick has spent a lot of time in the mental health field, from providing care to seeking care. While he has seen many brilliant practices and worked with talented individuals, Dr. Nick has experienced frustration with how we address the topic of mental health.

He found that this frustration boils down to two things: accessibility and reactive health care. When it comes to accessibility, “people don’t get access to timely mental health treatment when problems occur.” This is a well-known problem, as proper care leads to a better health outcome at the right time. 

However, the bigger frustration that Dr. Nick discusses is the industry’s focus on reactive health care. “In other words, we wait for people to get unwell before we provide them with support with their mental health,” he says. This is the opposite of how dental health or physical health is focused. In dental and physical health, there is a proactive approach to preventing issues, but unfortunately, in mental health, nothing is done until after the fact.

“What we do is we position the topic very negatively a lot of the time. And it’s often like a black-and-white image of someone holding their head in their hands. And I’ve never met anyone in black and white,” he says. “So I don’t know at what point we think that’s an accurate portrayal of mental illness anyway, but also it tells such a small part of their overall story.” 

Mental health is far from just a set of problems. We as humans have the abilities to think, be creative, problem-solve and feel the emotions we need to feel that make life worthwhile. “Mental health is something we should celebrate,” Dr. Nick says. “It is the most amazing part of being a human being.”

Optimum Mental Health

When we talk about mental health, we often focus on people who are suffering, those who are not in the best state of their mental health or those who have a good state of mind, but it’s not that simple. Dr. Nick shares, “I think sometimes we’re too binary with mental health. We think you either have bad mental health, or you have good mental health, but it’s not true.”

The key is to view mental health as a spectrum. Mental health is not one aspect but rather an ever-changing range of emotions that occur daily. We all live complicated lives where the day to day can be stressful and make life challenging. 

We’ve learned from philosophers that part of life is suffering, but we need to acknowledge that mental health is biological if we want to understand mental health. Dr. Nick explains, “It’s how much sleep we have, our genetics, our age, nutrition. It’s how physically fit we are, it’s our psychological life, our personality, core beliefs about the world, et cetera.” 

Add in “our social lives, our workplace, our finances, and all of these things together combined to uniquely give us mental health.” This leads to variations of mental health.

Unmind’s Dedication

There can be beauty in negative emotions because we can learn a lot through our feelings that we otherwise want to avoid in our daily lives. Unmind has tools that can help employees, the organization and leaders to truly address mental health in the workplace and develop a space where mental health is prioritized. 

“At the heart of what we do, in our DNA, is this idea that if you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it. So measurements are really important,” says Dr. Nick. He and his team were not thrilled with the measures in place because they were not made to empower people to get the care they needed at the right time. So they built their own tool.

Through collaboration with some of the world’s top universities, Dr. Nick and his team developed an assessment that scores a person in coping, calmness and happiness. Scoring on those aspects helps people find out what part of your mental health is most impactful for you and provides a range of educational materials that can help. “So it’s really wide and varied, and we worked with the world’s leading authors, academics and clinicians to bring all of their incredible teachings to life,” says Dr. Nick.


'At the heart of what we do, in our DNA, is this idea that if you can't measure something, you can't manage it.' - Dr. Nick Taylor. Listen to learn how @unmindhq is helping employers invest in their employees' wellbeing on #PunkRockHR!
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People in This Episode Dr. Nick Taylor: LinkedIn, Unmind website, Unmind Twitter

Full Transcript

Laurie Ruettimann:

This episode of Punk Rock HR is sponsored by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is the B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head on over to thestarrconspiracy.com.

Hey everybody. I’m Laurie Ruettimann. Welcome back to Punk Rock HR. My guest today is Dr. Nick Taylor. He’s the founder and CEO of Unmind. It’s mental wellbeing done well. And in today’s conversation, we’re going to talk about how to empower your employees with evidence-based digital tools to proactively manage and improve their mental wellbeing. We also talk about the role of leadership and actually, what is wellbeing, and is there an optimal way to operate in the world? You’re going to love this conversation because Dr. Nick is also a fan of Radiohead, which means I get to nerd out a little bit, and he’s also someone who’s passionate about making sure that employees perform at their best and feel good. 

So if you are a human resources professional or a leader who wants what’s best for your workforce, well, sit tight and enjoy this conversation with Dr. Nick Taylor of Unmind. Hey Dr. Nick, how’s it going?

Dr. Nick Taylor:

It’s going very well. Thank you.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, I’m super-pleased you’re here. It’s a tradition of the show to have guests introduce themselves and say who they are and what they’re all about. So why don’t you do us that honor?

Dr. Nick Taylor:

Yeah, absolutely. So my name’s Nick, and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Unmind, and we’re a workplace mental health platform. Personally, I’m a dad of three children and live in the UK in the countryside, and professionally I’m a clinical psychologist.

Laurie Ruettimann:

So much good stuff in there. Tell us a little bit about Unmind and why you do what you do.

Dr. Nick Taylor:

I’ve spent my adult life working in the field of mental health. I was a volunteer with the crisis helpline, the Samaritans in the UK, the leading helpline for people who need a voice at the end of a phone. I was a front-line support worker with the mental health charity, Mind, again the leading UK mental health charity, working with people with severe and enduring mental illnesses, people who required 24/7 care in their journey of recovery or just to stay well. And then I became a clinical psychologist and ended up leading health teams in the National Health Service, and also lecturing in mental health at world-leading organizations. So I’ve spent a lot of time in the field of mental health. And whilst I’ve seen a lot of brilliant practice and worked with some wonderful people, both providing and seeking care, I’ve ultimately been left feeling frustrated by the way in which, as a society, we address the topic of mental health.

And that frustration boils down primarily to two things. The first is that people don’t get access to timely mental health treatment when problems occur. And that’s a problem because we know the right care at the right time results in the right health outcome. But the bigger frustration is that so much, if not all, of our emphasis and focus is on reactive health care. In other words, we wait for people to get unwell before we provide them with support with their mental health. And that’s in stark contrast to dental health or physical health, where actually all the emphasis is on prevention. I have three children and from the age of 1, I’ve been battling them to teach them how to brush their teeth twice a day. And with physical health, we take a similarly kind of lifelong approach to encouraging good physical health behaviors. And we position the topics very aspirationally. You cannot buy a dental product anywhere in the world, so far as I’m aware, with a picture of bad teeth on it. Every dental product is sold with beautiful teeth.

But you know, like with mental health, what we do is we position the topic very negatively a lot of the time. And it’s often like a black-and-white image of someone holding their head in their hands. And I’ve never met anyone in black and white. So I don’t know at what point we think that’s an accurate portrayal of mental illness anyway, but also it tells such a small part of their overall story. And that story really is that human beings have mental health from the moment they’re born to the moment they die. We have mental health every single moment of our entire life. 

And far from just being a set of problems, it’s also our ability to think and be creative and problem-solve and feel all the emotions that we feel that make life so worthwhile and far from being a something we should hide about and not talk about and hushed voices. Mental health is something we should celebrate. It is the most amazing part of being a human being.

So those frustrations of not getting the right care at the right time to people and not focusing on prevention and not telling the right message around mental health led me to leave the NHS and co-found Unmind. And we always knew we wanted to focus on promotion of wellbeing, prevention of mental ill health. We knew we wanted to focus on science being at the heart of everything we do and measurement being at the heart of everything we do, because if you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it. And we knew we wanted to use digital tools because there aren’t enough therapists and clinicians to reactive health care, let alone proactive healthcare with mental health. And we knew we wanted to focus in on the workplace, and that was five years ago now.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, I’m amazed at this journey that you’ve had from practitioner to vendor to entrepreneur to innovator. It’s pretty exciting, and I want to drill in on what Unmind is trying to accomplish. But first I want to talk a little bit about optimum mental health, because you said something very interesting that when we talk about mental health, we talk about someone who’s suffering, right? A black and white image. I wonder if there’s optimum mental health, and how do you define a good state of mind and a poor state of mind? And can you even define it?

Dr. Nick Taylor:

It’s a really great question. And I think sometimes we’re too binary with mental health. We think you either have bad mental health or you have good mental health, but it’s not true. Like so many things you have all the time, it’s a spectrum. You move around with your mental health from day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year. And it’s ever-changing, really. And life is complicated. We all live these very, very complicated lives where things can be really stressful and life can be challenging. The philosophers taught us to live is to suffer. It is a part of life that suffering happens. But what we can do is that we can understand, what is mental health? And mental health is biological. It’s our how much sleep we have, our genetics, our age, nutrition, it’s how physically fit we are, it’s our psychological life, our personality, core beliefs about the world, et cetera. And also it’s our social lives, our workplace, our finances, and all of these things together, combined, to uniquely give us mental health. And actually it can therefore vary a lot.

Laurie Ruettimann:

I’m a little worried right now that the current trend in organizations is to view optimal mental health as shiny, happy people. And leaders have become these de facto therapists where they ask us how we feel, but they don’t really listen, and they don’t really have any solutions when we say I’m feeling terribly or I’m feeling conflicted or I’m feeling kind of flat, but I can still come to work every day and do my job. So I’m just a little bit worried about how mental health is viewed in this current landscape. What’s your reaction to that?

Dr. Nick Taylor:

I think it’s a good point. First off on the point of listening, I don’t think we spend nearly enough time learning how to listen, and yet it’s an incredibly impactful thing to be able to do. The second piece is around, I think it’s really important to challenge the assumption that because your mental health might not be good, or because you might have a diagnosis of a mental illness, that means you can’t also be productive. It’s perfectly possible to be very productive in many instances. And equally that we shouldn’t avoid negative emotions or what we perceive as negative emotions. And I say that as an avid Radiohead fan, there is a joy to sadness, and there can be beauty in negative emotions. We can learn a lot through emotions we might not want every single day of our life. So it is important to tell the full picture around mental health as part of how we talk about it.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, as a fellow Radiohead fan myself, I have a tattoo that talks about the low-flying panic attack that many of us feel. And for me that low-flying panic attack has been a motivator in my life to deal with things head on, to attack things, to face my fears. And I’m so glad you talk about this because I would imagine Unmind has tools for both the organization, for leaders and employees to really address mental health in the workplace. So talk a little bit about that.

Dr. Nick Taylor:

At the heart of what we do, in our DNA, is this idea that if you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it. So measurement’s really important. From day one, we didn’t feel comfortable with the measures that were available because they’re, again, they’re very negatively skewed, and they don’t really empower people in our opinion to get the right care at the right time.

So we built our own assessment tool, in collaboration with some of the world’s top universities, that gives the employees insight into how their mental health is. You don’t get scores in depression, anxiety and stress. You get scores in coping, calmness and happiness. So it’s skewed, and the language used is more aspirational. Based on your score profile, you’ll then sign posted to what’s going to be most impactful for you. And that can be very wide and ranging from educational material about how to think about imposter syndrome through to tools that you can use to improve your sleep through to topical to our conversation and learning about how to listen better. So it’s really wide and varied, and we worked with the world’s leading authors, academics and clinicians to bring all of their incredible teachings to life.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, I also wonder how a tool like Unmind garners trust within an organization, because there are so many solutions out there that are trying to address mental health and mental wellbeing. And the utilization rate is low, or people feel that their information that they give up may not be kept in a confidential way. So do you think about those concerns? Do you address those concerns, and how do you get people to actually utilize the tool?

Dr. Nick Taylor:

I think working with organizations to ensure that their people trust the provision that they are provided for is incredibly important. And we do so much work about when an employee first logs into Unmind or comes to look at Unmind in reassuring the employee about how their data is anonymous to them and how much we will do to protect their security around the topic of mental health. Equally, we run campaigns for the launch and the ongoing campaigns throughout the year to educate the workforce about the resource they have available to them and the value that they can get from using it.

Laurie Ruettimann:

So, Dr. Nick, tell us about the role of leaders in an organization and creating this world of trust. I think leaders are so incredibly important at all elements of an employee life cycle, but creating conditions of trust, really impacting the positive worker experience, is so important. So talk to me a little bit about that.

Dr. Nick Taylor:

Yeah. It’s a good question because it’s interesting, isn’t it, to think about what impact can a leader have on the culture of an organization? Because so much of trust comes around culture, and employees need to know that their leaders not only are living by the values of the business they’re in, but also that they are creating a safe, psychological space where it’s OK to share, it’s OK to bring your whole self to work. And I think what leaders can do is to be human in the workplace, to share their own experiences they’ve had in their life, to try to help others know that just because they’re in a position of leadership doesn’t mean that they haven’t got many of the same challenges that others may have, as well. I think that there’s so much that can be done there, but I also think leaders, making sure they’re investing in multi-year campaigns around wellbeing for their people. It’s a long-term financial commitment that organizations have to make, and leaders ultimately can make that decision and unlock budgets, as well.

Laurie Ruettimann:

So how do leaders work with an organization like Unmind? So I would imagine you come in and provide some assessments as you’ve talked about and you also provide, I would imagine, some training and some consulting to make sure that leaders are fully living the values that they state. Am I not mistaken?

Dr. Nick Taylor:

More or less in our experience, every organization we work with have advocates who are deeply passionate about the topic of mental health and wellbeing. And we love to collaborate with leaders who have that passion and then to record webinars or live discussion events with those leaders on stage for their employees to hear. And so that they can share, as a leader in that business, their relationship to the topic of mental health and help normalize the subject for everyone.

Laurie Ruettimann:

What about an organization that recognizes its leadership team isn’t necessarily comfortable with this topic of mental health, or the leadership team that doesn’t necessarily trust naturally? How do you work with them?

Dr. Nick Taylor:

I think it’s perfectly OK to not feel comfortable around a topic. I think what’s important is that there is a desire and curiosity to learn and get comfortable, because actually I believe that leaders have a responsibility to really drive the wellbeing agenda. Because it’s their responsibility to create cultures and environments where people are well and have an opportunity to be well, where those cultures and environments do not do damage to people’s health.

Laurie Ruettimann:

So often people come on to Punk Rock HR and really talk about mental health or mental wellbeing and they don’t necessarily live their own values. But what I’m struck by is that you’re so candid in speaking about this. I would imagine that at Unmind, you have your own culture where you freely talk about this and you’re really trying to drink your own champagne, correct? So tell me a little bit about your organization’s culture.

Dr. Nick Taylor:

Yeah. We put a lot of time and energy into our culture, and I’m really proud of it. And I’m really proud to work alongside all the incredible Unminders in all of our global offices. And we do care a lot about values. We do care a lot about creating an environment where people’s wellbeing is considered. And we do invest a lot in making sure that our employees have access to things like the private medical insurance, flexible working, et cetera, but we are fallible as anyone, as well. We don’t get everything right. And sometimes we’ve done things too late or too little, too late, and we’ve had to hold our hands up and recognize that that’s the case. But we are all human beings. The important thing for me, as a leader, is I know our intention is right and we’re authentic and transparent around that, but we’re not going to be perfect all of the time.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, no, and no company would be. And I think we talked about some of the benefits of focusing on mental health and mental wellbeing, but when companies get it wrong, whether it’s in COVID or not in COVID, what do they get wrong?

Dr. Nick Taylor:

Oh a huge amount. I think giving it lip service. Really that’s the biggest thing is, like, either just giving lip service and not actually acting on what you’re saying or just not engaging with it as a topic at all. But I actually think that we are approaching a place in the market now where, if an organization flatly said, “We don’t care about this as a topic,” I think it would be a matter of time before that organization went bankrupt. I don’t think it’d be “if,” I think it’d be “when.” And I think organizations know that. So we might be in this strange place at the moment where there’s a transition, and even those organizations that are paying lip service for having to do it, will eventually just through habit end up doing it quite well because the market’s going to end up doing it quite well. And we will all continue to learn, and those people that are committed to it will drive it forwards. But I think the days where people can say we don’t care are pretty much over.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, I like where you’re going with this, that mental health, mental wellbeing is a groundswell. It’s an employee movement, and it will push the naysayers forward. Are you really seeing that in the marketplace?

Dr. Nick Taylor:

I think you do. I think if you look at negative stories in the news around organizations that haven’t cared about their people properly, they’re ever more present, and they’ve taken no prisoners. They tell the full story, and no organization wants to have that reputation as being a negative place to work. And also, why should people work for an organization that doesn’t care for their wellbeing? It’s really offensive that organizations might behave in that way, and it shouldn’t happen. And I feel very strongly about that.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, Dr. Nick, I wonder why you do what you do. I mean, you talked a little bit about your history working within the NHS, working at amazing charities, working to really make sure that people feel good in this world. But I wonder if you have a personal story that drives you to do the work that you do.

Dr. Nick Taylor:

I always attribute my passion for psychology due to one of my sisters. I have three sisters, my eldest, Catherine, middle sister, Jessica, my younger sister, Anna, and Jessica’s Down syndrome. So from a very young age, I was aware that people are different and can be different, can be treated differently by those around them. And I think Jessica had a profound impact on our whole family, because my mom went on to retrain as a social worker, my elder sister, a speech and language therapist. I became a psychologist. My younger sister in her first career was a teacher in schools of areas of deprivation. So we all went into quite social causes, and I think we all would say Jessica had a profound impact on our career choices.

Laurie Ruettimann:

I think it’s interesting because the act of psychology is an act of service. That’s a career that’s based in service. And here you are trying to translate that into a technological platform. How’s that going?

Dr. Nick Taylor:

Well, look, I think it’s really important to recognize the potential value of technology enhancing our lives. Also to recognize the limitations of technology. I personally manage waiting lists in healthcare services. I know what it feels like as a clinician to have to say to somebody, “I’m sorry, we’re not going to be able to see you for six months because we simply don’t have capacity,” in the knowledge that that person really needs support. 

So I believe very much that technology has a key role to play in the topic of health care in the same way that it does in so many areas of our lives. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t also enormous value in traditional ways of delivering mental health care. But it’s thinking, “what is the right care at the right time?” And in the same way that I don’t need a dentist to brush my teeth, I don’t need a therapist to learn how to proactively manage my mental health.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, yeah. And that’s why it’s so important to offer a tool like Unmind in an organization because you’re right. I mean, this focus on preventative care, which is what we began the conversation with and what I would like to end the conversation with is so incredibly important. And it’s also something that we and we alone as employees can really do for ourselves. So as we wrap up the conversation, leave us with some parting thoughts about where we are today in society and the role of Unmind in an organization.

Dr. Nick Taylor:

So where we are in terms of society with mental health, it’s a story of two halves really. On the one hand, we have a greater problem around the prevalence of mental illness than we’ve ever had before. And it is an enormous problem. The scale of mental illness in today’s society is mind-boggling. Whilst we look at these big statistics, actually when you break it down, each individual has a lived experience that they want to get better from or that has caused them difficulty. So it’s a very real human problem we have.

The flip side of that is that we are now in a time when the topic of mental health is finally being destigmatized in ways that was unimaginable just a few years ago. People are able in confidence to talk about mental health in ways they couldn’t before. And there was a move towards promotion of wellbeing and prevention of ill health. They are absolutely the right trends to be seeing. After all, mental health is a truly wonderful part of the human experience, and it deserves to get that reputation back. We spend probably four to six minutes a day brushing our teeth. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in the future we could all say the same about our mental health?

Laurie Ruettimann:

And Dr. Nick, if people are curious about Unmind and what you can do for their organization and their enterprise, where can they find you?

Dr. Nick Taylor:

They can find us at unmind.com and we would be really happy to speak with them. So please do reach out and get in touch. We love building an ever-greater network of passionate and advocate people around the topic of mental health.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Amazing. Thanks again for being a guest today on Punk Rock HR.

Dr. Nick Taylor:

Thank you so much.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Hey everybody, I hope you enjoyed this episode of Punk Rock HR. We are proudly underwritten by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is the B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head on over to thestarrconspiracy.com. Punk Rock HR is produced and edited by Rep Cap with special help from Michael Thibodeaux and Devon McGrath. For more information, show notes, links, and resource head on over to punkrockhr.com. Now that’s all for today and I hope you enjoyed it. We’ll see you next time on Punk Rock HR.

The post Take Control of Your Mental Wellbeing With Dr. Nick Taylor appeared first on Laurie Ruettimann.

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Title: Take Control of Your Mental Wellbeing With Dr. Nick Taylor
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Published Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2022 09:00:06 +0000

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