Today is World Mental Health Day. The hashtags and related postings are flooding social media with messages of recognition, advances in support and an ever-campaigning change for attitudes towards those who may suffer with mental ill health.
I wonder in my lifetime will we ever make sufficient advances to support everyone…including those suffering the most, those suffering in silence. One of my aims for World Mental Health Day as Director to my team is to encourage discussion, dialogue and complete honesty.
Our organisation has a fresh approach to dealing with mental health. In fact, this year over 60% of our management community have attended a First Aid Awareness session on the very topic. For an SME with a focus on sales, revenue and market share – I am proud to be a part of a community that has started discussion.
So, here I am on this day of celebration, promotion and raising awareness and I am contemplating what is stopping people from being open about their own mental health issues?
Our organisation is a diverse mix of alpha males (there I said it…but I’ll leave them to guess who is who), strong female leaders, creative types, fast-paced (and fast living) types, reflectors, projectors and those who enjoy peace and quiet. We really reflect a cross-section of personality types and our teams are an inclusive mixture of all the above.
I walk around the building and I try to honour a statement a good friend and colleague posted during a time of a terrible and invisible illness ‘Be kind to everyone you meet, for you know not what battles they are facing’. But…it’s difficult, it really is. I can’t force people to tell me when they don’t feel at 100%, I can second guess and use my own experiences to empathise and extend some knowledge and understanding, but it’s frustrating.
Until we stop with the ‘throw away’ jokes and the perpetuation of stereotypes surrounding mental ill health, we will face the same struggles in the coming years as we have faced with the eradication of racism, sexism and homophobia.
I’m not suggesting that we go to the extremes of completely vilifying a little humour around the matter…after all, that’s often the trigger in a conversation that opens discussion on the subject. We need to strike a fine balance and get folk talking, unashamedly discussing their worries, their annoyances and their wins. Make Mental Health a Topical Topic!