I have lived with mental health challenges since childhood with an official diagnosis for the last 11 years and became acutely aware of the dangers of not talking about, nor seeking help for mental health issues when in 2018 I lost a good friend to suicide after he suffered in silence for many years.
This is the first time I have talked about my own experiences openly and publicly, having always been too ashamed to admit to suffering with poor mental wellbeing probably for the same reasons as many of you reading this; fear of being treated differently, fear of people thinking you’re less capable or can’t be relied upon, maybe that people will feel awkward and avoid talking to you.
Last week a colleague had the courage to openly discuss her mental wellbeing on a full company Zoom call and I instantly reached out to her to congratulate her on her bravery and discussed my own struggles. I felt ashamed that considering being involved with wellbeing in the workplace for several years, along with having personal experiences of mental health challenges, I had never found that same courage to help break the stigma, something I have come to feel particularly passionate about. I wanted to change that.
Coincidentally, later that same day I was asked if I would like to contribute in some way to our team World Mental Health Day activities so I seized this opportunity to talk openly in the hope of helping others just as my colleague helped me. She made me feel like I wasn’t alone and I felt compelled to speak up, especially as I feel there has never been a more important and meaningful time to talk about these issues with so many people adversely affected by lockdown.
The workplace is somewhere we can often feel great pressure to show up as the best version of ourselves day in day out.
I am lucky to work for a company whose management place real importance on a supportive culture with regular check – ins on our wellbeing. By doing this, we enjoy an environment that allows people to feel safe and accepted without judgement.
I would call on all business leaders to put a greater focus on the wellbeing needs of your people especially with so many feeling disconnected and isolated right now. I would urge team members to look out for colleagues who may be struggling and ask “are you ok, are you really ok?” and be willing to listen without trying to come up with a solution.
Only by being able to talk about mental health with those willing and able to listen can we educate others and promote understanding which will help to break the stigma.
#WorldMentalHealthDay #MentalHealth #EndTheStigma #DoOneThing