Mental Health at Work

Last Thursday there was a massive step forward in recognising that mental health should have parity with physical health in the workplace.

Thanks to the excellent #wheresyourheadat campaign, led by the brilliant Natasha Devon a petition was launched which collected over 200,000 signatures. This was more than enough signatures to trigger a debate in parliament which took place last week. See – that’s how democracy and parliamentary sovereignty can work, we’ve always had it! Ok – no more Brexit talk this week! The outcome of the debate was that MP’s from all sides agreed to back a motion to introduce legislation which would put mental and physical health on an equal footing through first aid regulation.

Still some way to go but this is a big step forward, it now seems a case of when not if this will happen. The campaign has been backed by major businesses, mp’s from across the board and members of the public. I know that progress is being made and that a lot of employers are taking mental health at work seriously. But imagine if this became enshrined in law so that nobody got left behind.

Hopefully it would mean phrases like, “pull yourself together” “man-up” “get over it” become phrases of the past Every employer has to have a physical first aider, under the legislation employers will also have to have a mental health first aider. Somebody trained to spot the signs for when someone maybe struggling and for people to go to when they’re feeling unwell. Makes sense doesn’t it! From an employers point of view it should help reduce sickness, increase productivity and all that guff! More importantly it will hopefully give more employees more confidence to admit that they’re struggling knowing that they’re going to receive help instead of suspicion.

MHFA England were also behind the #wheresyourheadat campaign. They are a fantastic organisation who deliver training to staff on how to be a mental health first aider among many other things. MHFAEngland

I attended the 2 day course at the end of 2017 and can highly recommend it. I was at a stage in my own mental health journey where this course helped me immensely and gave me some tools and the confidence to be able to help others.

After the course I wanted to give something back and so I wrote a blog for MHFA explaining how the course had helped me and to encourage others to attend if given the opportunity.

Somethings a chat is all it takes.

What are things like in your workplace? Could your employer be doing more or is there good practice taking place that deserves to be shared?

Final word, if you are struggling please get help. I know it takes strength and courage to ask for help at a time when you’re not feeling particularly strong or courageous but help is always there. I’m more than happy to help point you in the right direction. Feel free to message me or get in touch.

Take care x

International Men’s Day

So today, Nov 19th is International Men’s day. Be honest  – who knew? I certainly didn’t until I saw it trending on Twitter this morning. I mean after all, every day is pretty much men’s day. We’re not an endangered species, we don’t need protecting or any campaign groups to start crowdfunding for us. We’re doing pretty well. We hold nearly all the top jobs, we make up the majority of the boards of directors, we’re still much more likely to be paid more than a woman, even when doing the same job. We don’t have the same pressures to constantly look good, to be constantly judged on our appearances, we don’t have the same expectations when it comes to raising a family. To the women reading this, I sincerely apologise for not listing all the many, many ways in which it’s easier to be a man but that blog would take weeks! It is still very much a man’s world – love that song!

The fact that it is still a man’s world does come with it’s problems, not least of which we are a long, long way from having an equal society. Another issue comes with the expectations and labels we place on men and the roles that we expect them to play. Toxic masculinity is a huge problem.

Toxic Masculinity

Not every man is going to want to fit into stereotypes of what a “real man” is meant to be and yet the pressure to do so can be crushing. If we’re struggling there is an expectation to “man-up” (hate that phrase). Crying is seen as a sign of weakness but why give us tear glands if we’re not meant to use them? Asking for help and speaking about your feelings is still frowned upon, real men don’t do that – right? Is it any wonder male suicide is a massive problem, my home town of Middlesbrough has the highest suicide rate in the UK. Bottling up your feelings is never good, suppressing your emotions is going to cause problems eventually. Not asking for help – why would you do that? In every other part of your life, especially if you were struggling physically you would ask for help. (Man-flu)! Why should your mental health be any different? It takes strength to ask for help but help is out there, I know!

Thankfully the conversation around men’s mental health does seem to be slowly improving. The conversations on Twitter today are mostly positive and encouraging, lots of people offering help and support, encouraging fellow men to open up. You still get the odd doyle who is worried about any perceived attack on his masculinity, probably the same person who is scared of a woman boss, or who has never watched a romcom! We are getting better at talking but there also needs to be better mental health services for everyone so people don’t have to wait a long time to access help.

The other thing that comes to mind for me on International Men’s day is all the great men who have had a bearing on my life. The fantastic dad who raised me and is still there for me, the great teachers who educated me, who taught me music and encouraged me, the men who gave me opportunities, who advised me, who influenced me.

So maybe International Men’s day isn’t such a bad thing. After all, we need all the help we can get!

I give the final word to one of the greatest men in history.

World Suicide Prevention Day

monochrome photo of couple holding hands
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Today – 10th Sept is World Suicide Prevention Day. I have mixed thought about awareness days, there seems to be so many and I always have the feeling “what about the day after or the day before”? If you’re feeling ill those feelings are not going to go away, support will be needed for a long time. At the same time if it starts conversations, raises awareness or funds then a purpose will have been served.

The title  – suicide prevention got me thinking though. When you think about it, to help prevent suicide you do not need to be a doctor or a specialist, there is no funds needed to help research into a miracle cure. Everyone can play a part in preventing suicide by being kind, patient, tolerant, understanding, alert, and most importantly, a good listener. It doesn’t cost anything!

Suicide is the ultimate and final condition of mental illness. An illness that can affect anybody, it doesn’t check your bank balance, it doesn’t look at your bank balance, how many friends you’ve got, how successful you are.

There have been days and times when I’ve struggled, really struggled. Putting one foot in front of the other took a huge effort, the simplest of tasks seemed like the biggest hurdles and minutes seemed like hours, hours seemed like days. I’ve also been lucky, very lucky. I’ve had colleagues and friends who recognised something was up and came for a chat, I’ve got a wife who knowing that something was up would give me the space I needed and the patience and understanding when I needed time to talk. I also found strength to say “I’m struggling” and seek advice. Nobody ever told me to “snap out of it” or even worse “Man-up”.

Wow – I’ve just had to take a moment and realise just how lucky I am, and how I don’t always appreciate it.

Even on the days when I really struggled, I never felt like ending things or start to imagine what that would be like. If I can’t imagine what it must be like to end your life I’m certainly not going to judge someone who has. It must be so dark, so desolate to get to that point. I totally agree that suicide is not a selfish act. If a person is struggling and have got to the point where they see themselves as a burden, they will imagine that the world would be better off without them then suicide must seem like a selfless act. It’s something that takes strength not weakness.

There are so many simple things we can do to help prevent suicide. It can start with a simple question, how are you?  It can then be something as easy as going for a coffee or a pint and taking the time to listen.

Ask your employer about going on a Mental Health First Aid course. I’ve done it and can’t recommend it highly enough. It helped me on a personal aswell as equip me with the skills to help others.

Mental Health First Aid

If we have first aiders in the work place to be able to deal with trips and accidents, doesn’t it make sense to have first aiders for mental health?

A quick google search will point you in the direction of lots of organisations, resources and charities to support people who are struggling. A great one for men in Tees Valley is Men Tell Health, they deliver Speak Easy sessions where you can turn up and just have a chat and a coffee with other blokes.

Men Tell Health

With government and NHS funding the way it is at the moment we can’t rely on the services who should be able to offer the right support to be there when we need them the most – that really is a discussion for another day, I can feel the anger rising already!

Take Care!