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    In light of mental health awareness month – we wanted to talk about Neurodiversity and the correlation that this can have with mental health. We all have mental health, and some more than others are affected by conditions that can be isolating and debilitating in everyday life.

    “The word neurodiversity refers to the diversity of all people, but it is often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as other neurological or developmental conditions such as ADHD or learning disabilities.”Harvard.Edu

    Often we look at neurodiversity and mental health as two separate things, when in reality there is a strong link between neurodiverse individuals and how they suffer and are affected by mental health issues. 

    Neurodivergent individuals are more at risk of developing mental health problems, particularly if they spend the majority of their lives undiagnosed. For example, those with ADHD are considered neurodiverse – and there are countless studies showing how many people’s diagnoses are over-looked. For some, they have lived their whole life being neurodiverse but not having the right tools to equip them with being neurodiverse. This is where mental health issues can start to manifest and unfortunately, become worse when left untreated.

    “Being neurodiverse means facing challenges that a neurotypical person doesn’t have to. Especially as those with neurodivergent conditions are more at risk of having mental illnesses or poor wellbeing. This is often due to a lack of support, and the stress of ‘masking’ — acting neurotypically in order to avoid negativity” Health Assured

    Neurodiverse individuals can suffer from depression as well as anxiety disorders as a by-product of not knowing how to manage their neurodiversity, as well as feeling as though they are “different” or may not be accepted in social settings. 

    At work, this can feel magnified – especially as we spend the majority of our lives at work interacting with colleagues and clients. Being neurodiverse as well as dealing with mental health problems can feel even worse, and if employers don’t start to acknowledge and support neurodiverse individuals they could be missing out on attracting and retaining incredible talent.

     

    What can businesses do to support neurodiversity?

     

    Talk about it and recognise it!

    Creating awareness is the first step. A lot of neurodiverse individuals probably don’t realise that they’re neurodiverse – especially as it’s so multifaceted and can also sit on a spectrum. 

    Talking about neurodiversity can trigger your employees to become more thought-conscious. It will create a level of understanding and compassion within your organisation and also diminish any taboo thoughts and feelings that may be associated with neurodiversity. 

    You cannot assume that everybody has the same level of understanding as for some, this may be their first professional encounter with someone who is neurodiverse (or they may even be themselves). 

    For individuals within your organisation who are already aware of their neurodiversity, this is a great way to honour (and celebrate) everybody’s individuality. It also creates an open platform for individuals to share their experiences and also feed back to the business how they can be supported more. 

     

    Try to understand the needs of your employees

    Every employee within your organisation is completely different, and neurodiverse individuals will have different needs to neurotypical employees. If you’ve already started to create awareness and talk about neurodiversity, and you have employees who are open about what their struggles are – it’s important to sit down and understand what does and doesn’t work for them. This could be related to management, but it could also be related to working styles and even technology that they’re using in their day-to-day work. How can you work together to ensure that they can progress and achieve well at work whilst also supporting their neurodiversity? 

    If you provide enough support and care to your neurodivergent workers, they’ll likely stay employed with you for a long time.

    It can be difficult for neurodivergent professionals to find a workplace to support them. So, when they do, it’s likely they will want to stick around. This is because they may not know if the new employer would be as considerate.” – Health Assured

     

    Update your L&D

    If you have neurodiverse individuals within your organisation who have spoken about this – how are you supporting them with their L&D? Neurodivergent individuals have different thinking patterns and the way that they absorb and process information will be different from your neurotypical employees. 

    This doesn’t mean that you have to create a training programme that is different for each employee, but instead you should look at different learning styles and be conscious that not every employee is going to process training information the same. It’s also important to keep your approach to training fresh and modern and offer options. 

    Not everybody is going to enjoy 1:1 coaching (or get the most out of it) and not everybody is going to flourish taking a course or spending extensive amounts of time having to process training information (especially if that individual has a shorter attention span due to being neurodiverse).

     

    The bottom line is that neurodiversity can be excellent for your business, and, chances are you’ve got a lot more neurodiverse individuals in your organisation than you’d think. 

    Creating awareness, sparking conversation and being aware that everybody’s needs are different will, of course, create a more inclusive environment – but it’ll also create an environment where people feel celebrated, heard, and supported – particularly your neurodiverse folks. 

     

    To learn more about some incredible organisations within Life Sciences who are tackling mental health conditions, developing incredible drugs, treatments and medical devices for some of the most chronic mental health disorders in the world, click here.

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