The HR Juggler

The 25% Club: Mental Wellness

Posted on: February 4, 2013

mental wellness

This post is part of the 25% club series dealing with the topic of mental health, particularly as it relates to the workplace. Some of the posts, like today’s, will be accredited, others will be anonymous – all have a powerful impact and help to shine a light on a topic that we need to talk about so much more than we currently do. Today’s post is by Liz McCarthy, one of my very talented editorial colleagues, who I am privileged to work alongside. You can find on Twitter @liz_lloydslist.

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I’m not going to pretend that I know what it is like to have a mental health condition.

What I do know is that the one in four figure is significant.

Significant for the individual. For their family. For their friends. For every aspect of their life.

My own experiences of mental health have ranged from looking out for a fellow student in my university halls who was drinking and self-harming due to depression, to supporting friends coping with a loved one that is learning to live with a diagnosis.

The great thing about Mind’s Time to Change campaign, is its simplicity. Nobody is expecting us to know the acute details of a vast array of health issues. But just talking to someone can change that person’s day for the better.

It’s not only people here in the UK that are concerned about the topic – it is affecting people on a global scale. And across all age ranges. Some statistics suggest that for the majority of people the first signs of mental health suffering occur between the ages of 15-24 years, meaning many people carry this invisible condition with them for most of the life. The fact we aren’t talking about it worries me.

Thankfully there are plenty of people who want to change that.

One of them was an inspirational person I met in October, and something she said resonated with me and 1,300 other people in the room at the time.

I was taking part in a global youth summit organised by not-for-profit organisation One Young World that my company had sponsored me to attend.

Along with delegates under 30 years of age from across 183 countries, I was there to discuss major issues affecting the world that we will lead one day, with the aim that together we can create change for the better.

Rachel was the life and soul of the party, cracking jokes, making shy people feel included and provoking intellectual debate.

For these reasons I was not surprised when she confidently stood up at the microphone during a health plenary.
“I think mental wellness is a universal issue. It’s not a mental illness, it’s about mental wellness and it affects all of us,” she said.

Everyone clapped.

“I have bi-polar disorder.”

I wasn’t expecting that.

“That’s not normally how I introduce myself but in this world when someone is diagnosed with a psychiatric disability it becomes who they are. So instead of saying ‘Rachel has bi-polar’, it becomes ‘Rachel is bi-polar’ and that disability becomes my main definition and that can be so defeating.

“So I think we need to have a dialogue of what mental wellness really means in our communities. Because only then can we grow, transcend the labels, diagnoses and definitions that restrain and limit us.”

She received a huge round of applause, for her courage, for breaking the taboo and encouraging us to talk about it.
Soon other delegates came forward to the microphone.

Kelly from Canada: “A lot of people with mental health issues lose their rights and not even from a government point, but from society’s stand point. People don’t take what they say seriously and they lose their voice. It is not their illness talking, it is them.”

Her comments were followed by Maria, who works for Ireland’s National Centre for Youth Mental Health: “Unfortunately suicide is the biggest killer of young men in Ireland who are aged under 25 and we only spend something like 1% of the health budget on mental health. We need to reduce the stigma of mental health – just ask people how they feel, speak about their day. And we also need to focus on holistics, not prescribing medication.”

Finally, Megan from the UK stood up and said that she had a physical disability and a mental illness. “I’ve been inspired today that I really shouldn’t be hiding everything about my conditions.”

It was those 1,300 pairs of hands clapping – representing almost every country in the world – and recognising it was a positive topic of discussion that confirmed not everyone wants to sweep it under the carpet.
Just as those people who have physical conditions are not disabled but differently-abled, as Rachel said this is not about mental illness but mental wellness.

Can we replicate and encourage that non-judgemental environment in our local communities and companies for those that need us?

Can we keep an eye out for the colleague who has become quieter or stressed recently and ask them how they are?

Can we train managers on what they can do to support staff?

Can we use social media to break the taboo, share experiences and spread the message?

I want to ensure that when I’m a leader of tomorrow the stigma has reduced, that society is more accepting and that we treat mental wellness with the respect it deserves by putting it on a level playing field with physical wellness.

Let’s make sure that everyone around us is mentally well. #timeforchange

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If you care about mental health and want to make a difference there are lots of things you can do

  • visit Mind’s website and check out their excellent corporate resources
  • take the ‘time to change’ pledge
  • attend our event with Mind on 5th February 2013 at 6pm
  • share your story and read those of others as part of this blog series. If you would like to contribute, please get in touch with me on Twitter (@AlisonChisnell) or through the comments section of this blog
  • we are forming an #HRforMentalHealth team to fundraise for Mind by running the Royal Parks half marathon in October. Register here if you’d like to join us – we’re a friendly bunch with some first-time half-marathon runners joining us 🙂

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