This post has nothing to do with Facebook (before you ask!) however I do touch on the role of technology below. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Parsons yesterday who is a Partner at the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills and fantastic campaigner for mental health (his story here). One thing stood out from the conversation which was how having empowered all levels of the firm (Trainee to Partner) to be able to speak openly about their challenges with their mental health has had real impact on how the entire firm views such challenges. 

It got me thinking as to why this might be effective and whether this was a one off?

I have the pleasure of working with Helen Bevan of the NHS and she gave a brilliant talk at our annual event this year to explain that in terms of being an effective change agent, the extent to which a person is at the centre in the informal network (new power) is significantly more important than their position in the formal system (old power). In addition, people who are highly connected have twice as much power to influence change as people with hierarchical power. This comes from the excellent work of Jeremy Heimans

The brilliant work and video below by Nichola Christakis explains how social networks extensively influence things from Happiness to Obesity. How being the friend of a friend of a friend of someone who is happy can influence how happy you are (or even obesity!)! 

I think there is an important message here that is supported by the research cited above (Jeremy and Nichola) and demonstrated by the fantastic work of Herbert Smith Freehills. 

Perhaps if more organisations can activate those informal and social networks to talk more about the subject then the long term impact will be better mental health for their employees (and their external connections). 

I think it is important to add that I do think there is a role technology can play here. By providing employees with something that can help monitor, improve and maintain their mental health then there is a higher chance of the social network effect kicking in and informal networks being activated by knowing that it is ok to discuss such topics.