Better mental health is the most precious gift we can give anyone. Basically, there is no health without mental health. Yet the holiday period can be an anxious, stressful or depressing time for some. ‘Deck the halls and let’s be jolly’ may not come easily. We can all make a difference to mental wellbeing this month and in the year ahead. It is an invaluable present we can give ourselves and others. This can start by having the right attitude.
‘She’s a nutcase!’ was a vehement comment from a friend the other day, who was upset about another person’s behaviour. The tirade continued despite me trying to explain why this person might be behaving in this way. It made me think how some see mental health. No one would say, ‘She’s a titcase’ for someone who had breast cancer. We treat cancer with respect and empathy. Poor mental health is an illness and can be psychologically ‘cancerous’ in affecting many aspects of our lives. Yet people can get called mad, bonkers, fruitcake, or worse. They may be avoided through not knowing how to handle the situation.
Delegates on our Thinking Leadership course told how they were fearful of speaking out about stress at work for fear of the impact on their promotion or job security.
Better Mental Health in the Workplace
The Mental Health at Work Report 2016, which comes from a national survey of 20,000 employees, makes sobering reading about the state of mental wellbeing in our workforce. Employees said:
- 77% have experienced some form of poor mental health in their lives.
- 62% attributed their symptoms of poor mental health to work or said work was a contributing factor.
- 35% did not seek support from anyone when they last experienced poor mental health. This means that thousands of employees are suffering in silence.
The authors of the report call on leaders to start a continuing conversation about mental health in the workplace, so it removes the stigma of talking about it. It is also important to give line managers the right training and support to be able to deal with situations in their teams.
There is progress being made, thanks to a range of organisations like Mind and Time to Change. Progressive organisations are facing up to the growing issues, especially among younger people. Mental Health First Aid England offer practical courses. I am looking forward to attending one in January.
Our mental health impacts on all aspects of our lives and those close to us. It is important to start talking about it. This can help us on the road to recovery and reduce the isolation that stigma or prejudice can bring. Sometimes it’s the little things you do that can make a big difference to someone who is facing this challenge.
Five Gifts for Better Mental Health
Time to Change suggests five simple gifts you can choose to give someone.
- Talk to someone, but listen too. Simply being there will mean a lot. Actively listening is a wonderful gift to give someone and show respect.
- Keep in touch and agree to meet up, phone, email or text. Let them know you care and are thinking of them.
- You don’t need to just talk about mental health. Chat about everyday things and what they are interested in
- Remind them you care. Small things can make a big difference.
- Be patient, as today may not be a good day for them. You can help it be a little better.
Five simple things you can give yourself:
- Take your breaks. Too many people work through their lunch and breaks. It is a chance to exercise, change the scene and get some fresh air. Your brain needs fresh oxygen to thrive.
- Talk to someone rather than bottle it up. Ask for help if you need it.
- Celebrate your success and what you have achieved rather than ‘beating yourself up’ for what you haven’t done. When you look at your job list at the end of the day, do you focus on what you have ticked off or those not done?
- Establish a good balance in your life with work and non-work activities. Meeting with positive friends or being involved in enjoyable activities stimulates the brain. I’ve joined line dancing for physical, mental and social stimulus.
- Find out what family or workplace support is available and discover the wealth of organisations wanting to support you. You do not have to face the challenge alone.
I know from my personal and other people’s experiences, mental ill-health can strike quickly at any time. It can be a long road back. Feeling isolated can make that journey all the harder.
Give the precious gift of better mental health and help make 2017 a stress-free and peaceful year. It costs nothing but your time and effort. Wrap it in the right attitude and the results can be priceless.
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Ken and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Successful 2017.
Also published on Medium.