ColumnMental health matters

Lena Wittneben
Lena WittnebenPR

The WHO has declared October 10th to be “mental health day”. This year’s motto is “do one thing for better mental health”. Whether depressive illnesses, anxiety disorders or severe emotional stress: The number of lost work due to mental illness is increasing. Loosely based on the Roman poet Juvenal: A healthy mind in a healthy body. Health only works holistically.

In the filter bubbles of a holistic lifestyle, it is normal to deal with mental health in addition to healthy nutrition, exercise and personal development. Deceleration and digital detox are the trend. Across industries, there are now programs in many companies and corporations to improve the mental health of employees, e.g. to strengthen with yoga or resilience offers.

Nevertheless, in many places, stress is often a status symbol for success and recognition. Despite all acceptance for coaching or meditation, mental illnesses at work or therapies are hushed up. Behind closed doors, noses are wrinkled when the strange colleague “is sick again”, the new trainee “has something to do with the gossip” or the business partner “is not resilient anyway”.

It is important that depressive illnesses, addictions or states of exhaustion are openly discussed and accepted, such as a sprained ankle, toothache or appendix operation. The connection between physical illness and psychological causes must be recognized and taken into account in treatment. The classic lower back pain can be an expression of psychological stress.

In my opinion, a single and first impulse according to the WHO motto “one thing for better mental health” is to listen. First of all, listening to yourself and perceiving yourself, especially in stressful times: What do I really want and need at the moment? Rest, sleep, company, recognition, distraction Meaning, fun or maybe consolation? Often the first impulse occurs quickly.

Taking care of one’s own needs is not self-centered per se, but a prerequisite for being able to take care of others. Let’s think of the video with the safety precautions in the airplane, where the passengers are advised to equip themselves with the oxygen mask first in order to be able to help others afterwards.

But how often do we overhear the inner voice in order to continue performing and to belong to the group of supposed “performers”?

Coming into (re) contact with oneself only works if it is allowed to be quiet outside and we allow ourselves rest and breaks. Pausing, focusing on your breathing, and perceiving our individual senses can be a start to reconnecting with yourself.

And as soon as we take care of ourselves, we can turn to our fellow human beings ad hoc and listen when they are apparently not doing so well. Listening is not to be confused with giving advice – or with the amount of time in which we decide what to say next.

It’s about getting involved openly with the other and trying to put ourselves in his or her shoes. My counterpart must not be mentally devalued because he or she has a “problem” with something that we ourselves may consider to be banal.

Listening, perceiving, and confidentially getting and offering proactive help if we have the impression that our colleague, friend, partner or brother is not (yet) mentally healthy (again). The much-cited destigmatization of mental illnesses begins (for me) with listening!

“Do one thing for better mental health” can also mean saying “no” more often or providing offline times.

What does the motto mean for you?

Lena Wittneben writes here regularly for She is a systemic coach, memory trainer and speaker – more at The weekly interview podcast “There is a crack in everything …” is available free of charge on Itunes, Spotify or their website.


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