This week I want to shine a massive spotlight on Samaritans. Brew Monday is an absolute gem of an idea and given the current circumstances, really needed. Turning a fundraising activity to support people in need at exactly the same time as encouraging a behaviour that works in support of your cause is in my eyes pure genius! My donation is on its way. It also made me think about how much more I could do to check in on friends and family and not just because we are in a lockdown but as a standard daily habit.
But first, it’s important for me to look in the mirror. It is far too easy to immediately leap into how do I help others without considering my own needs. Last week I talked about cups running low or empty and the cumulative impact of multiple lockdowns added to heightened work stress is certainly impacting on me. Mental health inexplicably remains a taboo subject and when I reflect on my own thoughts on my mental health it stems from a perception that an admittance that my anxiety is building, my stress is growing and ability to cope diminishing feels like an admittance of failure, a lack of personal strength, wimping out. I have to confess that historically I have placed too little emphasis on my own mental health. Sky News posted this really helpful article earlier this month and it is well worth a read. So if you are now thinking you should complete your own self assessment there are some great tools out there including this one from the NHS – Your Mind Plan.
My wider inclusion question for this week stems from this. I believe we are getting better about being open about mental health challenges we may be facing but there is still a long way to go. In the workplace there remains a reluctance to openly talk about mental health and we are far more likely to rally round and offer support to a colleague with flu, a chronic bad back or a leg break than one with a mental health problem. So what action can we take?
Three things really. The first is to start with yourself. We often place our own self care at the bottom of the pile. There has never been a more important time to rethink that list of priorities and place ourselves first.
The second: personal development. Build your knowledge around what to look for, how to support and critically where to signpost. Supporting someone with a mental health problem may require a skilled practitioner. Sometimes the best thing you can do is encourage someone to seek professional help. For tips on things you can do to support others this website is a great starting point.
And the third thing is what you can ask your employer to do. A couple of years ago I heard Dr Shaun Davis speak about the benefits of the Royal Mail’s Mental Health First Aider programme. Having trained colleagues readily available to support members of staff is a great way of both demonstrating organisational commitment and understanding but is also a brilliant support programme for your staff. You can read a bit more about what they have done here. What if every employer had a Mental Health First Aid programme? What if we thought about Mental Health First Aid in the same way as we currently think about physical First Aid? I will definitely be asking this question in my organisation, will you? #ImNotTired