The HR Juggler

The 25% Club: Getting Over It

Posted on: February 5, 2013

moving forward

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 Lorna Leeson, who you can find via her blog or on Twitter @Lornais.

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Some weeks ago, a conversation started on twitter. A few of us had responded to the ‘Courage’ guest post on Alison’s blog and were discussing mental health and work. Things had to change, we said, dialogue had to begin, stigma had to shift. I agreed.

And then I paused. I knew first-hand about the impact of mental illness and work. I wasn’t in this conversation with full disclosure. I felt disingenuous, dishonest, unfair. Those who know me know that honesty and fairness are pretty important to me. So I came away from twitter and wrote this.

I wasn’t sure at the time why I was writing it. I just felt that it needed saying. If we were going to talk about mental health, we should do it with honesty and fairness. In my opinion, if we want to address the stigma attached to mental illness we start by speaking out. By saying, “hey – this affected me too”. With honesty.

I tweeted a link to that post once. I suppose I expected to get a few views from the rather select gang of 180 people who follow me on twitter, or my four blog followers (two are my parents, I’m fine with that).

It’s had over 1300 views.

I wrote it and then went sale shopping (If in doubt; hit Debenhams, this is my mantra). When I next checked my ipad my twitter replies had gone crazy. Scores of people had sent me tweets saying “Thank you”, “That sounds like me”, “You’ve just told my story”. The author of ‘Courage’ sent me a message sharing their identity. I had a text from a good friend telling me she was proud of me and direct messages from people sharing their own stories.  They told me I was ‘brave’.

Brave. If I’d had one message with that word or any number of its synonyms in, I had a hundred. And, if I’m honest, it pissed me off.

It pissed me off that we still live in a world where blogging openly about an episode of ill health requires ‘courage’ or ‘strength’ or makes people ‘proud’ of you.

I had a facebook message from an HRD that I used to work for – he wanted me to come in and talk to his team. I had a request to repost my blog post on a national website. I’ve declined both (or rather I’ve said I’ll think about it, which is the same thing if you’re British).

I’ve no intention of becoming defined by my time suffering from generalised anxiety disorder any more than I intend to become defined by the time I broke my femur (on a trapeze, in Provence, if you must know). And, to me, asking me to stand up in front of an HR team and educate them on mental illness because of my ‘personal insight’ is like asking me to educate them on physical illness because I once had chicken pox.

Mostly I’m frustrated. Why does it need to be such a big deal? One of my favourite twitter replies was from a guy I don’t know who said he wanted a Stonewall-esque T-Shirt that says “This Bitch Be Cray-Cray. Get Over It”. While I may take exception to the vernacular I share the sentiment. Can’t we fast forward to the point where we can tell someone that we have a mental illness and they say ‘I get that sometimes’, or ‘OK. What can I do?’? That’s so much more preferable to; ‘Wow!! You’re so brave’, (accompanied by that side-tilted head thing) or tumbleweed…..

I don’t mean to be flippant. I’m in this conversation because it matters to me. I’ve lost a friend to Mental Illness. Judging from my twitter replies and the number of views my post had it affects far more than the estimated 25% of us.

It is ugly. It is tough. Recovering from it, managing it, requires strength, courage and bravery.

Talking about it shouldn’t.

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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
  • our event with Mind is tonight 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 🙂

3 Responses to "The 25% Club: Getting Over It"

What on earth were you doing in a trapeze?
Lorna, your writing is compelling.

If I told you, I’d have to kill you Meg. Just know that I have a rich & chequered past 😉

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