World Mental Health Day
Mental health is a universal human right.
This was the theme of World Mental Health Day 2023, which took place on October 10th. At its core, the idea is simple – everyone has the right to good mental health. That doesn’t mean that we’ll never have hard days, but rather that we should all have equal access to mental health support when needed, and be protected from mental health risks where possible.
The idea feels fairly straightforward – so why is it not happening?
The stigma of poor mental health
Unfortunately, there’s still a huge difference in how we treat mental and physical health as a society. Most people would be horrified at the idea of walking around with a broken leg for several months, yet many of us accept having to wait years to access proper mental health support. Many more suffer in silence.
As a society, we’re beginning to encourage people to be open about how they’re feeling. Significant changes such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially classifying burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” mean awareness is increasing.
But when someone shares that they’re struggling with a serious issue, it can still make us uncomfortable to the point we let it change how we see that individual. We’re fine if someone likes to organise their things in a certain way, but not if they’re struggling to leave the house. Our workplaces are often not set up for anything less than peak performance. ‘Successful’ socialising relies on going out, not staying in.
Making room for mental health in everyday life
I get it. It’s hard to handle these situations, and no one gets it right every time. But the theme for this World Mental Health Day encourages us all not to shy away from difficult conversations, and this is something I advocate for in my own work. Mental health isn’t always palatable – often, it’s messy and confusing. So how can we make room for mental health conditions in everyday life?
I don’t have all the answers, but I think that being open to talking and listening, at work and socially is a good place to start. Make space for the harder or uncomfortable conversations, as well as the good in your relationships.
Keep in contact with your friends who are struggling, even when they’re not up for coming to the pub with you. Go to them instead, if they’re open to it, and don’t let them feel that they’re a burden. Make it clear that you still value them, even if they’re not feeling up to seeing you. Keep reaching out your hand. Often what’s needed is to be listened to rather than to be offered solutions…
Practical advice for difficult conversations
A well placed “how are you really?”, followed by empathetic listening could be just the trick. It can be tempting to jump in with a plan, especially when you want to help. So, if you struggle to hold your (unsolicited) advice in, think about the “WAIT” acronym:
Give the other person time and space to be honest. Not everything needs to be solved.
What we can do as a society
We can all do more to bring about change. My talks aim to destigmatize mental health issues, particularly in the workplace. People are sometimes afraid to be open at work about the fact that they’re finding things difficult, for fear of being seen as not good enough or no longer being trusted to do their job. But the message this sends to the rest of the team is that hiding is the best way to go, and as I myself can testify, keeping everything bottled up is not the solution.
So this month, let’s all aim to take a step towards making life better for those who are struggling with their mental health. Make your company a welcoming space where the team can be honest about all aspects of their health without fearing a negative reaction. Create policies that allow people to thrive, not feel controlled. Make mental health a right and a priority, not an afterthought.
If you want external support to start the conversation, just get in touch. By all working together, we can change how society views mental health, and make life better for everyone in the process.
(Got feedback about this newsletter, or simply want to share your thoughts? Let me know by replying to this email. )
How I can help
Book me for a talk at your company. I use my own story and experiences to open a discussion, lift the stigma and encourage staff to use the resources available to them.
Join me for one-to-one performance coaching. Let’s work together to guide you towards feeling calm, finding clarity, gaining confidence and feeling in control.
Still not sure how working with me can benefit you? Read my testimonials here.
What I’ve been sharing this month...
The importance of enlisting professional help. We’re all guilty of relying on Dr Google when something goes wrong. We’re looking for a quick fix that will save us time and money, and make the problem go away. But sometimes, we have to take the tougher choice and enlist some professional health for long-lasting change. Find out what happened to my car to inspire this post – and why I think listening to your gut is so important.
The difficulty of self-diagnosis. Before my breakdown, I was having thoughts that I could be described as a ‘self-harm fantasy’ – a minor road accident that would allow me a few days off work, for example. I thought nothing of it, and it certainly didn’t register as a red flag for my mental health. Now, it’s clear that these thoughts should have been a warning sign. Sadly, they’re not uncommon. Read my thoughts on why it can be so hard to accurately understand how you’re feeling.
Being pot bound. Trying to move my pot-bound olive tree to my allotment led to it withering. It looked dead, and I was convinced that it was no more, but I never got around to digging it out. Miraculously, it’s growing again, and this year I know how to take better care of it. There’s a parallel here to my own life – burnout and redundancy forced me out of my pot-bound attitudes and into a new stage of growth and respect for my needs. Here’s to a fruitful part two.
My reflections on wellbeing at work. A recently published report showed that sick days have increased, with stress, Covid and the cost of living all contributing. Shockingly, only half of companies said that they had a wellness strategy, and many of those will offer support that is hard to access. So how can we do better? Check out my ideas.
Reflecting on turning 50. Milestone birthdays are often a chance to reflect. In my case, the first 50 years of my life have given me a myriad of lessons learned, a collection of splendid friends, a family that I'm grateful to not only love but actually like too and so much more ahead. I look forward to maybe meeting some of you along the way.
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in: James Pickles