Sunday, October 01, 2017

Get well soon

Earlier in September I heard David Beeney talk about mental health at work, and he used an interesting example:  The staff member who has a broken leg gets get well soon cards and contact from colleagues to see how they are doing.  The staff member who is off with stress is usually ‘left alone’ and there’s little or no contact, and no get well soon card. Yet which of these is most likely to need the contact, support and to know that others are thinking about them? (NB - make sure you read the comments below that followed on from this post)

One point that David wanted to make is that it is OK to share – to tell others if you are having issues around mental health, just as we would if we had – say – a bad back, diabetes or a headache.  But that involves a huge culture change; since Victorian times the British (I can only speak from what I have heard, read or experienced here) have been very good at the ‘stiff upper lip’.  Prior to then, the British were known for being rather emotional – perhaps better at sharing how they were both physically and mentally – than we are now.

As someone who has depression (sometimes quite a big black dog, sometimes a puppy, sometimes it’s away in the kennel) I find it hard to share what is going on in my head, because – as an example – depression makes you lose perspective. You won’t share, because no one will care anyway.  You won’t share because they might ‘find out’ you are not as amazing and indestructible as you want everyone – including yourself – to believe. Sometimes the logic of the dog is not logical at all.

The purpose of this post is the same as David’s talk – to get the conversation out in the open, to be prepared to talk about an issue which, as a nation, we seem to try and keep hidden.

There are many statistics around mental health, such as one in three adults, and more recently 25% of teenage girls. In other words, there's a lot of people who are contending with mental health issues.  Sometimes individuals might have an ‘episodic’  issue, but, if you think about mental health as a spectrum (as we do with autistic or other developmental states), then we have probably all had an issue at some time or another. The question (or perhaps diagnosis context) for me is how much it affects everyday life.

Help and references


Teenage mental health resources

  • Youngminds - reports on mental health for younger people and charity


Photo: from Pinterest (no credit identified)

Footnote: since first publishing this, a comment came in that it isn't always appropriate to contact someone who is off work for mental health reasons.  Yes, that's true, and contact may in fact increase problems rather than offer comfort, but the very principle that people off sick because of a mental health issue is 'taboo' is what is challenged here.  If you have a colleague off sick for any kind of mental health reason, check before contacting them with your HR department or boss.  Maybe a get well soon card could be the best thing they ever got.
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