Dr Nick Taylor, co-founder and CEO of Unmind, wants you to talk about your mental health - and not only if you suffer from mental ill-health.
A clinical psychologist, Dr Nick is a firm believer that your mental health requires routine care - no differently to brushing your teeth each morning and evening.
With the workplace considered one of the biggest triggers for mental health issues, this confidential desktop and smartphone platform has proven to be, for some users, a life-enhancing, life-changing and life-saving tool. Accessible at any time, Unmind runs the gamut from bite-sized challenges and mindfulness exercises to preventative programmes.
With advice on supporting your mental wellbeing - whether on the road or in the office - Dr Nick shares a new paradigm for mental health.
Tell us about Unmind.
We all have mental health, just like physical health or dental health. Wherever you are on the spectrum there are proactive exercises you can do to nurture and improve your mental health. Unmind empowers employees to proactively look after their mental health and at the same time enables organisations, by aggregating and anonymising their employee mental health data, to create strategies that are most appropriate for their workforce. The platform essentially provides people with a companion to their minds, a place where they can go day in, day out, to track and work on their own mental wellbeing.
What life experiences inspired you to create Unmind?
One of my sisters has Down's syndrome, so from a young age I experienced first-hand how differently she saw the world, and in turn how differently she was treated. It instilled in me a fascination with the human mind and our mental health.
Growing up I volunteered as a Samaritan and as a support worker for the mental health charity Mind. After studying psychology and gaining a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, I joined the NHS as a clinical psychologist. It was while working for the NHS that I became interested in corporate wellness and the way organisations can benefit from looking after the mental health of their employees. I began to realise that organisations were often lacking the tools to do this, and it was this realisation that led me to create Unmind in 2016, a platform that would provide organisations with the means to support their employees.
Why the name?
Quite a few reasons; it's intriguing, and the shape and flow of the word is relaxing. However, it also speaks to the way our thoughts can often run away with themselves leading to unhelpful thinking patterns that in turn can impact on our mood and overall wellbeing. This is what Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is about, learning to recognise that our thoughts can impact on our emotions and behaviours - but they are not always right. In fact, we can learn to recognise that thoughts are just thoughts and we can choose to challenge or ignore them. By "unminding" we are stepping back from our thoughts and observing them rather than being driven by them.
What frustrates you about mental healthcare in its current state?
My frustrations are threefold. The first is that people are not able to access professional care in a timely way when they experience poor mental health. The second is that people have to jump through too many hoops to access information that will help them with their mental health. Finally, as a society, I don't think we focus enough on prevention in poor mental health, despite this being universally recognised as the best practice in health care. It was this belief in the importance of offering a preventative and proactive solution that inspired me to create Unmind.
What stigmas around mental health would you like to see erased?
All stigmas! Our mental health is arguably our most treasured and wonderful asset, as such we should discuss, nurture and celebrate it.
How does Unmind work to build a healthier mind?
We work with experts to create scientifically backed tools, and learning and development programmes that employees can use to track their own mental health and wellbeing, or find support. The content is delivered in bite-size chunks, through audio, video and interactive exercises and personalised assessments, including questionnaires, mood diaries and customised programmes to help users identify and improve specific areas of wellbeing such as stress, focus or sleep.
Who are some of your clients?
How can companies better support their employees' mental health?
Companies can support their employees' mental health by helping to break the stigma around mental health and acknowledging that the same level of routine care is needed for mental wellbeing as it is for physical wellbeing. They can also help by ensuring that everyone within the company understands the symptoms associated with common mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression so that people feel more able to have open conversations about their mental wellbeing.
How do you develop Unmind's tools and training procedures?
The content within the platform draws on four scientific pillars: neuroscience, positive psychology, cognitive behaviour therapy and mindfulness. We work with world-renowned academics and psychologists to develop all of the tools, training and assessments to ensure that everything we do is in line with the most recent cutting-edge research.
What are your go-to exercises for relieving stress or improving focus?
I personally love the exercises we have for breathing on the platform, especially ones with music - they help me relax every time. I also find exercise key to relieving stress - too often we distinguish physical and mental health when in fact they are incredibly interlinked.
Any exercises that we can use while travelling?
Anywhere we go, our minds go with us - so yes, we can work on our mental health while on the road. The beauty of a digital platform is that it can go with you anywhere you go at any time. It's perfect for a trip!
How can travel boost your mental health?
I love to travel and it has undoubtedly had a positive impact on my mental health. It's an opportunity to experience new things, meet new people and learn.
Three years on since forming Unmind, what have you learned?
Oh my, where to start... I've learned that our generation has a genuine opportunity to smash the stigma around mental health once and for all. I've also learned so much from all of my colleagues, advisors and investors. It's been a great trip.