Mental Health is a scary phrase. It’s scary to talk about, to be the one to start that conversation. How do you ask someone if they’re struggling? If they’re depressed, anxious, or – deep breath, tense up – suicidal? It would be great if there was a script to follow. Maybe a logic path. If Mood Low = True, then….? Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as straightforward as all that. Life rarely is, much as we’d like it to be. It’s messy, and hard, and rewarding. It never goes quite the way you expect – and it’s okay when it doesn’t, when you don’t know what to say next. It’s important that you try.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that talking really does change lives. It can even save them. It might not often be quite that extreme in the workplace, but a question asked at the right time could head off months – even years – of struggle and recovery. So can talking openly, and honestly, about your own struggles.
It can sometimes feel like coming out, admitting you have a mental health problem. I’ve had my share of bad reactions, have kept those parts of myself boxed away at work. But being open and honest, sharing my truth (which is far less aspirational, self-help-shiny than it sounds) has transformed my working life. My lived experience of mental health gives me a unique perspective of how to make work better for those around me – and, as with many SMEs, having never had someone be open about their mental health before meant that no one was really sure how to support me, at first.
All that has changed now. I’m a trained Mental Health First Aider. Remarkable are working with See Me Scotland’s See Me At Work programme. We check in with one another, asking how we’re feeling today. It really is as simple as that. ‘How are you, really?’ ‘Are you okay?’. That’s all you need in your arsenal. Bringing mental health out of the shadows normalises it. Removes the shame and stigma that so many people face. Because the truth is, we all have mental health. Just like we all have physical health, good or bad. It’s about how you take care of your health that matters. There are several million words on the internet with advice on how to do that, so I won’t try to even summarise them here; the key is that mental health is a spectrum that we’re all on, regardless of our current status, and if we’re a little kinder to ourselves, to each other, maybe a little more aware of the people around us, we really can make a difference. This Time To Talk Day, why don’t you take five minutes, pop the kettle on, and ask someone how they are. You’ll be amazed at where that can lead.
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