3 ways technology is helping mental wellbeing right now

In this day and age, technology is both feared and revered. It can’t do right for doing wrong, but it is a must in our everyday lives. Many of us don’t go less than an hour without using some form of technology to enhance our day in some way. We probe into the different ways technology can be used for a force of mental wellbeing good.

1. Accessibility

Technology (be it an app, or the internet in general) provides much easier access to signposting and care for those who live in areas with limited resources, or might have mobility issues themselves.

As well as that, asking a professional questions about your own mental health can sometimes for some be a little daunting. Technology enables people to ask these kinds of questions in a more anonymous, and informal way.

A great starting point is to provide high quality, clinically validated sources of information through easy-to-use, trusted websites and systems.

2. Using data smartly

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Analysing large groups of people through apps will provide valuable insights into various different health behaviours. It’s even possible that through specific keywords that are used some patterns can emerge in people more likely to have depression for example.

Once a large group start to engage with the app, or platform they start to build an understanding of their own mental wellbeing, and are able to monitor it themselves.

The likes of the 87% app does entirely this, it allows you to build daily mental health habits in a tailored way that entirely suits you and your needs.

3. Influence the masses

By embracing the power and the level of communication that technology offers this can be used to help the majority of society.

Public health initiatives on social media networks can reach wider or targeted audiences for particular risk factors or messaging, such as online community groups that discuss depression or alcoholism, or particular age groups at risk for a whole range of different conditions.

Being able to share personal stories can help reduce stigma and enhance people’s understanding of what really happens within their own minds, and finding people that relate to them can be so powerful.

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Feel mentally empowered by technology

Imagine not using technology for 30 minutes, go on really imagine it? Emailing becomes impossible, making a cup of tea is out of the question, and you might as well forget about catching up with all the latest online Brexit shenanigans. If we need technology to do even the most simple things, then why not use it to empower and inform you about your own mental health?  

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Yes, yes the robots are coming for us and going to take all our jobs… or so the fear-mongering media would have us believe. It is true that technology advancements will impact the labour market, but it will also pave the way for humans to be far more creative and innovative within their roles. Is it at all possible to apply this to mental health? If technology is doing the measurable and specific stuff (keeping track of our mental health tendencies day-to day etc) doesn’t that then allow us to analyse patterns and figure out whether we could be more creative in the way we problem solve our own mental woes?

Personal approach

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I’ve always been a talker, and fairly articulate when it comes to my specialist subject, me. But not everyone is gob-on-a-stick and has a more reserved approach. That’s the wonderful thing about technology, in that everyone has equal opportunity to talk about feelings. I might be leaning more towards social media in this instance, but it gives you the freedom to say whatever you so wish about the inner workings of your own mind. An abyss to shout into, some people care – others won’t, but for those who do it might even strike up a conversation about how you both feel about a particular subject therefore revving up a previously stationary conversation.

Predicting and preventing

A project championed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock included predictive technology, it’s called Good Thinking mental health in London. This technology is identifying those who might be at risk of, or are managing levels of depression, anxiety and low-level mental health conditions by analysing social media usage and search history. The goal is to then help these people via digital apps, online cognitive behavioural therapy, or face to face, in a bid to prevent conditions from worsening. Similar approaches around predictive technology are being used in the NHS, to help indicate and prevent a crisis from occurring, by putting measures and signposting in place.

Technology has the ability to empower people to stay healthy at any time of year – winter can be challenging for people because mood can be very weather dependent. The simple act of integrating mood-tracking apps could improve societal mental health greatly. The potential to predict and prevent instances of mental ill health through the conception and delivery of breakthrough technology is entirely significant.

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Feeling empowered

Sometimes we tend to steer clear of technological advances, whether it’s too complicated to learn a new system or there is underlying fear of a lack of control within our own lives. But, we need to learn to let technology help empower and educate us, let’s embrace it and and use it to make our lives, and those in the generation to come more in tune with our own mental wellbeing.

Embrace your mental health at work

Jo Hooper, Founder, Mad and Sad Club

Jo Hooper, Founder, Mad and Sad Club

Considering that 1 in 6.8 people are experiencing mental health problems in the workplace, and 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK are being attributed to mental health conditions it’s clear that we as a society need to do something about this, and fast. 

Jo Hooper, founder of the Mad and Sad Club, goes into organisations and helps employees talk, understand and take action around their own mental health. Jo has had her own experiences with managing her mental health being diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2017. 2 years later, Jo took redundancy and decided to start the Mad and Sad Club earlier this year claiming to be, ‘pretty much an expert in being mad at work.’

We speak to Jo about mental health in the workplace, what a ‘toxic’ working environment looks like, and what impact this can have on your own mental wellbeing.

What, in your opinion creates a 'toxic' working environment?

It can be a real combination of things. But I’ve experienced a toxic mixture of unachievable expectations; poor management or leadership behaviour, with that behaviour left un-checked.

Perfectionism for me can be a huge anxiety trigger.
— Jo Hooper

Constant forward motion can also create a toxic environment - never taking a moment to acknowledge successes or learnings and instead being relentlessly focused on the next big thing.

In what way do you think employees feel they must 'act' a certain way at work?

In my experience, work can perpetuate perfectionism if you already have this tendency. Making you believe that everything you do must be perfect, with no mistakes or learnings tolerated. Perfectionism for me can be a huge anxiety trigger.

Do you think the notion of a 'corporate' working environment might ever change culturally?

I think it can, but it needs to be intentional if a corporate culture is already present, and change won’t happen over night.

In my experience, culture change is the most powerful when it’s driven from the real people in the organisation, rather than the leadership team, so people need to feel empowered and energised to try new things.

From your insights what would help progress mental wellbeing and understanding in the workplace?

  • Openness to hearing how people can be affected

  • Willingness to learn what those struggling might need from their organisation or team members

  • Action - not just talking, but action to change things for the better

Do you think the way we work is outdated?

…Errr, just a little bit!

The whole 9-5 structure was established during the industrial revolution, when we were all working in factories, where we needed to be together and there were no lights, so we needed to work during daylight hours.

Thankfully since the advent of electricity and more recently the internet, we DO NOT NEED to work in a little huddle between the hours of 9-5. I don’t feel that creative in the mornings, so I start my day slowly and do my admin and emails in the morning, with the afternoon reserved for creative and productive time.

I’m so much more productive and generally happier now I’m not chained to the 9 - 5.

What are your tips for those who are struggling to manage their mental health at work?

1. Recognise it. It’s scary and easier to ignore it, but that’s just going to keep you iller for longer.

2. Talk about it. If you have an employee assistance line, call them. If you feel comfortable, talk to your boss, colleague, partner or friend.

3. Try to reach a point of equilibrium before you start the work of getting better. You will likely be on a pretty big anxiety high, or deep depression. Take some time to slowly reach a more even keel before you start reading all the books, listening to the podcasts, doing the exercise. What got you to that place is most likely pushing through, so recognise that isn’t working at the moment and stop pushing.

4. Be kind to yourself. This sounds so fluffy, woo and unrealistic, but seriously, do it. Do what you need, don’t do what you don’t want to. It takes some time to get to know what does and doesn’t work for you - listen to yourself.

Bring your dog to work

Bringing your dog to work could bring about a whole load of mental wellbeing benefits to not only your furry friend, but indeed you.

Management up and down the UK are beginning to embrace the concept. On the surface this idea may seem a little out of the ordinary, however having dogs around may help strengthen your workplace culture.

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The phrase, ‘a man’s best friend’ has been batted about for centuries now, but is still as relevant today as it was in 1786 when King Frederick of Prussia was thought to have first coined the phrase, speaking about his beloved Greyhound. There are many reasons why dogs have been given the status of ‘man (or women’s) best friend’ some of which stems from the overall demeanour of a dog, and qualities they possess. Dogs on the whole are resilient, loving, loyal and bursting with personality – is it so surprising that they create such a warm and fun environment?  

Bringing your dog to work has already been picked up by some of the biggest companies in the world and rolled out in their workplace, these include: Google, Amazon, Etsy and Ben & Jerry’s.

We’ve pulled together some more specifics around why and how dogs can create a harmonious and relaxed atmosphere maintaining good mental wellbeing for all…

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Support

Dogs can be source of real social support, the unconditional love that you receive from your doe-eyed pal feels good really good.

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No judgement

A dog doesn’t mind if you are feeling a bit off, or being grumpy, they aren’t judging you. They simply just love having you around which could really help if it’s a particularly stressful day at work.

Regular exercise

Dogs by their very nature encourage us to take regular exercise. It’s been researched that those who own dogs, or regularly walk dogs are 79% more likely to walk than those who don’t have a dog. In the workplace it’s healthy to have regular bouts of quick exercise to help with productivity, having a dog around will make this more likely to happen.

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Cost saving

By bringing your pooch along to work with you, you might be saving on money that you ordinarily would have given to a dog minder.

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Employment perks

Did you know that ‘Dogs At Work Policy’ is often viewed by employees as a valuable employment perk?  Recent research showed that over two fifths (43%) of employees would like to see pets allowed in the office, 39% felt that pets at work would increase their productivity, 50% believed it would increase their happiness. In addition to that, a significant proportion of workers would be prepared to stay at work for longer if pets were allowed to be there with them.

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a friend magnet

Dogs are one of the best ice breakers anyone could ever ask for, you’ll find that people you may not know will start to speak with you, or perhaps to your dog. This interaction probably wouldn’t of happened without your furry four-legged trusty pal.  

Does your company allow dogs in the office? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

Working your way

Sometimes life is about taking leaps, Dee Jas walks us through his experience of leaving the corporate world behind and entering the freelancer world. He discusses the impact this has had on his mental wellbeing, and the art of letting go of a lifestyle that doesn’t work for you.

Let’s meet Dee…

Dee Jas, Founder, Colourfull

Dee Jas, Founder, Colourfull

I've been lucky to work for some of the biggest brands that exist in the world today (BBC, Santander and TfL to name a few), and without the career experiences I've had along the way, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in now.

There are so many perks to working for an organisation, aside from having a level of security where your next pay check will come from! You often get to work with other brilliant people you learn from and an exposure to a range of business problems you never imagined. The flipside is that along with the fun stuff, a role in-house also requires you to do things you may not enjoy as much. And, let's not forget all the organisational politics that you have to manage which increases the higher you climb. At times, I definitely found myself doing less of the work I truly enjoyed and more time managing around politics.

I loved my last role as People Director at Girl Effect. Our mission was so strong, to empower girls and young women. And it took me back to my core values, namely to create positive social change in the world. So I decided to talk a leap!


Anais Nin says 'life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage' and this has been my mantra! It led me to creating colourfull by using my courage credits and focusing on a specific area that I deeply cared about and could talk to authentically (namely building inclusive cultures and supporting the inclusion of BAME and/or LGBTQ people at work, as well as using the power of media/storytelling to shift attitudes and inspire others). What's been most surprising is how my whole life has changed since deciding to go solo! And for the better.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage
— Anais Nin
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Of course you have to keep an eye on your income and securing work (the power of referrals/word of mouth and doing a great job cannot be underestimated) but the positives firmly outweigh the negatives. I have the freedom to truly work flexibly, how I want and where I want. I get to take on interesting/challenging assignments based on my values and my energy is directed to doing work that taps into my purpose and creativity. I get to skip the office politics and am valued for my expertise first and foremost. I generally feel more fulfilled and happy.

The knock effect has been in my personal life. I remember running a 100 miles per hour in my previous roles, often exhausted and looking at my tasks as a never ending piece of string. Now, I've found the right pace and the biggest difference is my ability to truly listen to others and be present. It sounds a bit ‘woo-woo’ but having a better balance in my life means I'm able to show up for my loved ones and care for myself along the way too! My brother gets married in August and it's been awesome having the time to really get involved and support him as we prepare for the big day!

All of this adds up to a nicer me. I wasn't a complete monster before, but I've always been driven and could be perceived as relentless. But the combination of creating my own 'thing' that allows me to do work that I truly care about (and excel at, if I say so myself) plus having the time to connect with people has left me energised and inspires me to show up at my best, whether it's at work or my personal life.

I'd never say never to another in-house role, but it would have to be a belter i.e. truly connect with my values, offer flexibility and champion inclusivity. And to be frank, there's not many out there - yet!

I hope this dispels some of the myths people may have around starting your own business/being self employed. Of course there are risks that need to be considered, but the biggest (unexpected) benefit has been my mental fitness and well-being. Which is priceless!