Monday, July 13, 2020

Internal Audit and Mental Health!

During the current difficult and uncertain times, people may not always be able to maintain proper mental wellness. This should not come as a surprise during these unprecedented times. People are worried about their health, their families, their jobs, and their financial situation.  In this post, I will briefly discuss how internal auditors can maintain their own mental wellness and what role they can play to help their organizations deal with mental health and safety plans in the workplace.

What is mental health?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as: 

"a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community."

With the current level of disruption, uncertainty, social distancing, remote working, fear, and stress it is of most importance to ensure that there are proper plans to deal with mental health issues as businesses start to prepare for workplace re-entry.

Although mental health awareness has gained ground in the last few years, there is still a long way for promoting it across businesses and communities worldwide.

How to maintain your mental health?

For the same reason a person takes care of his/her physical health, he/she should also pay attention to his/her mental health. According to experts, mental wellness can be achieved and improved through different ways and techniques such as:
  • Get enough sleep and eat healthily.
  • Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. 
  • Develop a new hobby and/or skill.
  • Stay in touch with people.
  • Train your brain: play games, read, write.
  • Minimize the time you spend following the media.
  • Practice your choice of spirituality/ meditation/yoga.
  • Laugh. They say laughter is the best medicine.
  • Build a support network and be supportive of others.
  • Think more about today and less about tomorrow. Forget the past!

How can Internal Audit help?

Internal Audit can play a vital role in helping the organization promote and improve mental wellness  and provide assurance and insight by for example:
  • Assessing the mental health "culture" and the related" tone at the top". A candid discussion with management and the audit committee regarding their views on mental health and their plans to promote it within the organization is the starting point towards recognizing that mental health is an issue that should be considered and taken seriously. Not everyone is aware of how mental health in the workplace affects performance, productivity, collaboration, the ability to take the right decision, and even the reputation of the organization as a whole. Internal audit may have to take the initiative to provide education on the effects of mental health when needed.
  • Review the existing mental health policies and procedures and ensure that they cover issues such as identification of mental illness, confidentiality, privacy, equality, and access to available internal and external support and treatment.
  • Internal Audit needs also to ensure that there are appropriate policies and procedures covering anti-retaliation, anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, violence, and the flexibility to take time off or work from home for those affected by mental illness.
  • If no policies and procedures are in existence, Internal Audit can work with Human Resources and Legal Departments to provide insight and guidance on how to prepare them.
The above is only a general suggestion on how Internal Audit can help. If you have practical experience with mental health at your workplace please share as much as you can.

What do I do?

Because I, usually, practice what I preach, I am sharing with you what I do to maintain my mental wellness:

  • I read a lot!
  • I play brain games!
  • I have learned a new skill: cooking
  • I walk every day in the parks and trails.
  • I am rediscovering nature and wildlife.
  • I have developed a new hoppy: photography. Below are samples of my work.
Today's hoppy could be tomorrow's profession!

Please share your thoughts and your methods of maintaining your mental wellness.

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