Is it often the case that people don’t realise what their own mental health situation is?
No-one likes to admit to being below par, let alone feeling they are “losing it” in some way. There’s a social stigma attached to needing help to counter stress. In the business community, I have seen depressed business leaders or those whose businesses were about to go under, practice the level of denial that was close to complete fabrication.
I need to demonstrate constantly the “onwards and upwards” mindset that many believe maintains business confidence. It’s baloney, but it happens. Then of course there are the symptomatic sequelae of the mental disorder themselves. Frequently these are associated with lack of insight and denial. We also have a problem of popular public awareness of mental health disorders.
People colloquially describe themselves as “OCD”, “manic”, and a whole range of other references that are associated often with minor symptomology when in fact the conditions described, if truly visited upon them, would be serious mental challenges. This makes it hard for people to have sensible conversations when they’re in difficulty and equally very hard for somebody suffering in isolation to calibrate their experiences alongside the conversational predicates their peers use.
What do you think can be done to improve understanding of mental health illnesses?
Whilst training the workforce through the likes of mental health first aid may assist, access to good support and consultancy, particularly by HR staff is critical. Beyond this, my vision of mental health awareness is one where there is a tacit acceptance that at some point in people’s lives they will experience challenges that they lack the resources to address without help.
At this point, it’s critical for the employer, along with community and other services, to work together to contribute to the high support a person needs at that time to counter stress. Such a perspective is commensurate with what I see as good corporate and social responsibility, but it’s also beyond that. It’s part of companies being part of the community and sharing in the common humanity we all experience.
What is the most common misconception around mental health?
The most common misconception is missed the maintenance of mental health is a lifelong condition. Actually, the majority of people get well again and there need never be a recurrence. That said some people have enduring problems that need additional thought and care.
Another misconception is the fact that somehow this is something to do purely with the person’s personal life. Very often poor management leadership, poor change management, demeaning, intimidating, exhaustive or repetitive practices can all impact on a person’s mental health. So much can be done to make a difference when it comes to helpingcounter stress.
How do you unwind after a tough week?
I tend not to get wound up in the first place, however tough the week is. Maintaining personal awareness, talking about my dilemmas, being open with my feelings and not having to put on a “front” to impress takes a load of stress off my back before I start to work.
I keep my eloquence available for being effective at what I do, rather than the rubbish I need to generate to deceive others. MeditationAnd music in the company of a very small black cat also makes a huge difference. Animals are therapeutic and they innately ground one to the world and create experiences other than that of the corporate cut and thrust.
Do you have any rituals to improve your own mental health?
I must admit I thought of a whimsical response to this, such as slaughtering a few chickens in the moonlight and giving thanks to the God of Wagga-Wagga! My sense of humour is how Icounter stress. I look at the funny side of things because, let’s face it, whatever troubles us now is not going to matter a hill of beans in 100?years. So let’s not get too stressed by our perceived importance.
More seriously, the ceremonial stopping for a caf latte can produce much relief in the here and now. For most people rituals create a sense of safety. When shared they provide a social structure that often gives the perception of stability and continuity, wherein reality things?might be changing radically.
This is why people go to church at times of crises and communities come together. Gallons of tea are made when villages flood, and boxes of clothing far in excess of what people need are provided, because it helps people counter stress and do something rather than nothing. We are creatures of ritual that gives meaning to our world.
Equally, however, rituals can be unhelpful in workplaces. Employeescringe about meetings, and managers need to understand why. Also, an over focus on belonging to a team, rather than respecting the individual, can lead to almost punishment-centered invitations to social events.