In ‘The OpenUp of …’ someone openly tells us about their life and views on mental well-being in- and outside of the workplace. Topics such as meaning, awareness and challenges all pass by. And how does psychology play a role in their lives? In this interview, we ask Fred Slikker, Managing Director @ Digidentity about his outlook on well-being in his personal life and his organization.
Let’s get personal
What does mental health mean to you? And do you believe mental health is an important part of your daily life?
“Mental health and physical health cannot be separated in my opinion. The mind and the body need to be in sync. Health in general is of the utmost importance to me. You cannot function properly in a private or professional capacity if your mental health is not where it needs to be.”
When it comes to mental health, are there any themes or challenges you are currently facing and what is your view on talking to a professional to solve them?
“Thankfully, there are no themes or challenges that I am personally facing at the moment. However, each of us experiences mental health challenges from time to time. Talking to a professional is absolutely critical to deal with mental health, both for the person experiencing issues and those close to them. Understanding more about mental well-being and how you can respond to problems is crucial, even if you aren’t the one experiencing them first-hand.”
How do you deal with stressful moments or challenging situations in your life?
“I consider myself lucky as I’m a fairly optimistic person and that I have a positive mindset. I’m able to deal with a lot of stress and challenges, but that is not to say that it doesn’t affect me. I try to always keep perspective and only worry about the things I can influence. I have a stressful job, but, thankfully, moments of fun and success alleviate the pressure on a regular basis. It also really helps to talk to good friends who are in similar positions. While their perspectives certainly provide new insights, the simple fact that I am talking about challenging issues is already a great way to deal with pressure.”
What do you do to maintain your mental health? Are there some best practices you would like to share on how you keep calm for yourself?
“I try to eat well and exercise (long-distance running in particular). Running helps me clear my mind. I can be quite stressed when I start, but after 30 minutes I already feel calmer. When I was just starting my career, I still used to meditate and study Buddhism, but these days I no longer practice.
However, that has given me a base that I can rely on when times are hectic. One valuable skill I learned from studying Buddhism and meditation is mindfulness. It helps to recognise emotions. When I’m feeling stressed or depressed, thanks to mindfulness I can trace these feelings back to the source. Most times, the reasons for these negative thoughts are quite straightforward.
However, other times, there could be less obvious causes as well. Once you understand why you feel a certain way you can start thinking about what you can do to feel better. Talking to others about whatever issues are bringing me down also really helps with restoring inner peace. Just getting things off my chest already makes a big difference.”
How do you feel about opening up and how do you encourage others to do so?
“Opening up when you’re being challenged mentally is of great importance. I know from experience that getting someone who is struggling to open up is very difficult. Asking questions and fostering a safe and trusted environment for someone to do so does help, but providing the right encouragement can still be quite difficult. It is an area where I want to develop better skills. “
In the Workplace
What is your view on mental health in the workplace?
“It is very important to understand if employees are experiencing mental health issues, but this is not a topic that people can easily discuss. Now that our staff is working more and more from home, being able to signal and address mental health issues is even more difficult. That’s why it is good that we can offer OpenUp services to all our employees.”
Is mental health discussed openly @ Digidentity? And how do you make sure people have open conversations about mental health at the workplace?
“We haven’t spent much time discussing mental health specifically, but we cover the topic as part of health & safety. Introducing OpenUp was a great way to raise awareness about mental health within the organization and the work environment.”
What does your company offer to promote mental health and ensure the mental well-being of your employees?
“We offer general health & safety advice, but we didn’t specifically promote mental well-being before introducing OpenUp. If employees are experiencing long-term illness or very frequent illness, we ensure our Arbodienst contacts the employees to review the nature of their illness and what underlying issues there may be. The employer cannot always be informed of the details of the problem, but we try to ensure that the person’s manager stays actively involved with the employee and our HR department also keeps in frequent contact with the case manager.”
When did you first think about providing our service to your employees?
“Our Prevention Officer first brought the service to the attention of the senior management team. She pointed out that for international employees, mostly non-Dutch speakers, getting support when experiencing mental health issues is more difficult than it is for Dutch people. This was a further incentive for us to consider providing more support as a large number of our employees have international backgrounds. After reviewing the services that OpenUp delivers, we felt it was a great addition to the advice and service we already offered.”
What were the challenges you were trying to solve when you chose to partner with OpenUp? And how did we help?
“We wanted to give our employees the possibility to be open about any mental health challenges they might have had, thereby removing the threshold of discussing this with a manager or colleague. This became even more necessary with the increased amount of working from home and less frequent interactions between employees and their managers. Furthermore, we wanted to make it easier for our foreign employees living in The Netherlands to get access to support for mental health issues.”
What advice would you give to those who will read this interview?
“I want to encourage employees to learn more about the service, whether they are experiencing mental health issues or not. Even if you are feeling well in general, OpenUp may be able to provide resources and support to feel even better, to help a loved one in need or simply to prepare yourself for when things are not going in the right direction. Remember that OpenUp offers much more than just the possibility to speak to a psychologist. There are masterclasses, group sessions, online articles, and many other useful resources to help you dive deeper into mental health.”