Building a Competitive Advantage Through Mental Health Resilience

Work and mental health are closely intertwined. World Health Organisation (WHO) asserts that a safe and healthy working environment supports mental health, and good mental health enables people to work productively. It is therefore imperative for companies to focus on promoting positive mental health in workplaces. Empowering business leaders and employees to manage stress improves overall productivity and decision-making.

Jimmy Ong attended the Singapore Red Cross Academy's Psychological First Aid course for this reason—to acquire skills to support his co-workers and his network. Mental health fitness enables individuals to perform at their optimal capability while staying engaged, he contends. A strong mental health workforce is also a competitive advantage. The PFA’s 'Look, Listen, Link' method is an organic approach to helping individuals in mental distress. Jimmy feels it has made him more aware of the people around him.

Jimmy Ong, 50, is a Business Development Manager at an international company, and a career and life coach. He is also a trainer with the Singapore Management University (SMU) teaching Mindfulness-Based Strategic Awareness Training — a course designed for the workplace and individuals facing the challenges of an active life. In 2020, he joined the Singapore Red Cross Academy's (SRCA) Centre for Psychosocial Support. Interested in mental wellness, especially in young people, Jimmy joined SRC’s Psychological First Aid course (PFA). He found the PFA’s action principles of 'Look, Listen and Link' useful not only in the business context but also in everyday situations. Jimmy eventually became a trainer for PFA.

Introduced in 2016, the PFA course teaches people not only to understand the importance of self-care but also to identify signs of stress and to provide emotional support through the use of non-intrusive, compassionate ways of connecting. Over 3,000 people have attended the course since 2016.

Importance of Psychological First Aid at the Workplace

"Companies realised they have to get involved to ensure the mental well-being of their employees since the pandemic. The post-COVID business world implies changes to the workplace, which bring on stress in certain individuals. There is a need to help these people cope with these challenges and with the ensuing emotions brought on by them," Jimmy said.

Mental health in the business world is important for him. He asserts the business arena is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA), a familiar term in the business world. Therefore, having positive mental health in the workplace enables company leaders and employees to manage stress, improving decision-making. 

The company where he works also puts mental resilience as a top priority. 

"We have set up a wellness team to provide regular communication on various programmes and initiatives through newsletters. We also conduct workshops and wellness programmes. While this is a good initiative, its reach is limited because individuals do not always have the time to participate or do not wish to do so because of a perceived stigma with seeking help," he said. 

The PFA’s signature 'Look, Listen, Link' approach is better suited to assisting mentally stressed people. It teaches participants to recognise the signs, listen to the individuals in distress, and link them to resources for them to get the required help. It also teaches participants to be more self-aware of their state of mind. Knowing PFA has allowed Jimmy to be more observant of the people around him.

Building Mental Health Resilience at Work

“A strong mental health workforce is a competitive advantage,” says Jimmy.

He believes mental health resilience allows people to perform at their best while staying engaged. The most challenging situation arises when the employee lacks self-awareness of his or her mental fitness.

To build mentally strong teams, Jimmy took part in a six-week Positive Intelligence Programme (PQ Programme) and led groups to promote mental wellness. The PFA course complements this training and enables him to recognise co-workers who require help and to support them.

Jimmy feels the PFA is useful in all situations – in the workplace, in schools and within the family. As its name implies, it is a First Aid for mental health.

By Michelle Tanmizi, Volunteer


Inspired? Learn Psychological First Aid (PFA) and advocate PFA to your family and friends.