The HR Juggler

Posts Tagged ‘Mental health

calm

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 anonymous, others will be accredited – 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.

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I’m a user.

Yes, I am reliant on drugs to get me through every day.  But I’m OK with this.  I haven’t always been OK with it, but I am now.

All my adult life I’ve been dealing with mental health issues.  I say “dealing with”, these days rather than “struggling with,” which is what I used to say.  I’m not struggling any more though, I’m accepting and working with what I’ve got now.  It makes for a far more peaceful life and peace is what I crave.

It’s not that I’m not a fighter, you understand, it’s just that I have decided to use chemical warfare in my battle.

I’ve tried the other stuff alone and in conjunction with my medication. I’ve been counselled and CBT’d, I’ve yoga’d and meditated, I’ve even tried to snap out of it *cue wry smiles from other depressed people*.  But every time I’ve tried to reduce and ultimately stop antidepressant medication, I’ve lasted a few weeks or months before the old feelings return.  Re-starting medication in those circumstances is an unpleasant experience.  The side-effects kick in before the positive aspects leading to several weeks of utter misery.

So here’s the thing.  I’m never going to come off them again.  There are lots of other medical conditions for which it is essential for some to take daily medication for life, and this is mine.  I’ve been asked why I don’t want to try to end my reliance on medication.  Funny, you never hear someone say that to a diabetic…

If ever anyone asks me (and they do) if the medication makes me “someone different” I recount the story of the day, all those years ago, when I sat sobbing in a locum GP’s office for half an hour.  When I managed to get out through the tears the words “I’m worried that medication will distort my perception of reality” … she gently pointed out that my perception of reality was already distorted because of the condition and the medication might help to set it right.  I can’t remember her name but I remember her face when she said it, you could say it was a defining moment in my relationship with my condition – although it was many years before I would come to realise this. 

That wasn’t the real me back then (and at countless subsequent points before I made my decision to medicate for life), terrified to make a decision, incapable of sleep and constantly nauseous – the real me is happy, confident and outgoing, loving my work and loving my life.

So, I deal with depression.  I deal with it my way and it works for me.  I am a supporter of a combined approach to treating mental health issues and I have a series of techniques to help me through periods of particular difficulty. But in the main, my stable and positive state is thanks to my drugs and I am OK with that. 

Is everyone else OK with that too?

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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
  • 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 :)

 

mind

On Tuesday 5th February we held the HR for Mental Health evening with Mind. So many people have asked me how it went and what was discussed, that I thought it would be helpful if I pulled something together for those who were not able to attend.

The agenda and speakers for the event were organised by Jon Bartlett (@Projectlibero) in less than three weeks since the Courage post first appeared on my blog. Someone asked me the other day, whether either he or I had any idea of the response that would be generated from posting this: the honest answer is no, not at all! But, once it was clear that so many people were affected by the post and keen to do something tangible to try to make a difference, Jon and I discussed what we could do to maintain some momentum. I offered to post a series of guest posts by anyone who wanted to share their experience of dealing with a mental health issue (cue the 25% Club series); Jon had the great idea of creating and hosting an event with Mind.

Around 60 people attended from a wide variety of organisations and sectors, many of whom I did not know personally, but all of whom without exception were engaged, interested to find out more and keen to be there. David Goddin did a wonderful job of explaining what would happen at the event, introducing each of the speakers, and expertly facilitating throughout.

The evening started with a number of speakers, all of whom were fascinating and compelling to listen to. First up, Jon stepped forward and introduced himself as the author of Courage. This was a huge deal: as he explains in this post which he published at the start of the event, he has never previously spoken about his bipolar disorder in public. He talked movingly and at times haltingly of the path that his life has taken and how difficult it has been to get to this point of disclosure. He will say that he stumbled over his words and was tongue-tied at times. For me, and for many in the audience, it was simply spellbinding to listen.

Charlotte (@BipolarBlogger), who is an Expert by Experience for Mind gave a fantastic talk about what it is like to live with an enduring mental health condition. I found her the most inspiring of all: she was so bright, impressive, insightful and articulate. She talked about her condition as being like living on a beach: it can be normal and lovely and enable you to build the constructs of a normal life, but every so often there is a tidal wave, which devastates everything. She has published a transcript of her talk on her blog, which I can’t recommend reading highly enough. I would also like to highlight the tweet that became most shared throughout the evening, by Charlotte herself, which sums up so much of how we still view the topic of mental health: “Very nice of people to say that I am brave to speak up about my mental health, but I live for the day when bravery is not required.”

Ruth Warden from the NHS gave an employer’s perspective and shared a lot of research they had undertaken in their organisation, which was fascinating and definitely relevant beyond her sector and organisation. She has kindly provided a copy of her detailed notes, which you can view here –

 

 

Emma Mamo from Mind talked about the great work that they do with businesses and the excellent resources that are available. She has provided a visual overview of her presentation here, as well as a detailed example of a workplace WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan), which was discussed.

 

 

 

 

Following the speakers and a question and answer session with the panel, we separated into groups (thanks to Natasha Stallard and Julie Drybrough for their excellent work in facilitating us!) and brainstormed some answers to questions that had been set by Mind to help their research. These were –

  • What topics would be useful for Mind to produce information & guidance on?
  • What format would be most useful? E.g. short guides, Webinar events, check lists
  • What issues do HR Professionals find most challenging when it comes to managing Mental Health at work?

I know that Mind will be keen to continue to get feedback from HR professionals on these topics, so please do leave a comment or drop me an email if you have some views on the above points.

The evening wrapped up, we retired to the pub for drinks and a chat and my head was buzzing for hours, if not days afterwards with ideas for what I would do within in my organisation and a sense of huge pride and achievement for the success of the event.

Some food for thought that I have been reflecting on since the event and have shared with my HR and board colleagues is as follows –

  • line manager competency is, unsurprisingly, the single most important thing to how individuals with mental health issues experience support in the workplace
  • in order to create a more supportive environment, it helps to give people the tools to start a conversation. For example, for a manager to ask any individual who works for them, “how do you manage your own health and wellbeing? What can I do to support you with that?” Or even doing something as simple as regularly asking and properly listening to the answer of “how are you?” 
  • there is so much stigma still. Mind’s research shows that mental health illness has increased massively since the recession, but most people are too fearful to declare it and lie when they call in sick. This of course causes further problems and stress for the individual, as well as undermines the trust between the person and the organisation
  • it is important to integrate any mental health initiatives into wider support and training, not as a stand-alone activity. Also it’s helpful to talk about wellness as a whole, including mental wellness, versus illness which includes both mental and physical symptoms. We talked about how lots of managers and employers can be amazing if someone has cancer or diabetes, but terrible if the individual has a mental health issue. We also should be very mindful of the language we use
  • the employment rate for those with enduring mental health conditions is shockingly low.
  • it’s important to think about what the person can do, not just what they can’t. Often the individual themselves will know what will make a difference to them, for example flexibility in coming in slightly later, working from home, stepping out of conflict situations etc. Often continuing to work is vital to an individual’s ability to manage a mental health condition.
  • organisational restructures can be triggers for individuals – due to the increase in workload, the introduction of flatter, less defined structures, and a feeling of being out of control of their daily work. This is rarely taken into account in any change management programmes.

In terms of next steps, the most important thing is that we start to take action as a result of the evening event with Mind and our collective good intentions. For me, I will be getting a team together from across my business and agreeing our plans to improve the environment that we work in and are responsible for. Two particular possibilities that I am reflecting on are incorporating mental health into our management training at every level and also creating a strategic strand of wellness into our CSR strategy. In addition to this I will be making a case for bringing Mind in to upskill our HR and senior managers about mental health and helping us to deal with it more effectively. Watch this space for more details and I will update you on the actions that I take. I hope very much that there will be others doing the same.

Were you at the event? What points particularly resonated with you? If you weren’t there, what would you like to ask that I haven’t answered? And most importantly of all….what are you going to do to make a difference? I would love to know!

silence

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 anonymous, others will be accredited – 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. It is also true that these posts have been difficult for people to write and perhaps even more difficult to send in. Today’s post is an example of someone who has left much out, but still has an incredible amount to say.

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I’ve cut a lot of my first draft. In replying, I mainly wanted to pipe up and explain why I have never spoken up about having panic attacks. I’ve been ok for a long time and can’t remember the last time I had one. Right now, I feel a fraud for writing this because I am fine – but at one stage my panic attacks were so bad I would avoid staying away at friends, or even at my parents’ home. Ironically, work is/has been like a safe-haven. Being at work helps because I am distracted and focused on something.

There are 3 reasons why I’ve not spoken up:

1. I have responsibilities. People rely on me – at work and in personal life – and I don’t want anyone to think they can’t rely on me or for them to ever think “I had better not ask X, just in case”. When someone lets you down there’s a fear they’ll do it again isn’t there? When my panic attacks were at their worst, I would think I couldn’t quit because I’d be unemployable, and I daren’t speak up because what if I ended up sidelined? Then what … I guess that’s common to a lot of people? 

2. I don’t want friends or family to worry for me or be upset. Ultimately, there isn’t much they can do, and then there’s the embarrassment amongst friends (for both me and them). I tend to be private. I know my panic attack will pass eventually. I will fail to convince myself that at the time, but it is a fact – it doesn’t last.

3. I have private health insurance (!) Nearly every day of each year I am fine, but not a day passes that I’m not reminded of a panic attack. I feel in control and this isn’t a problem. So it won’t be an issue for any insurer, but I’m afraid I would lose any argument if it came up and don’t want to have to explain any of this to anyone to justify my cover. For a while it was this last point more than anything else that made me pause and question should I really put something in writing for all to see?

The first two are probably the same for a lot of people. The third one… that’s just me.

I had written more, but I’ve struggled with what I want to say and how, in a large part because it has been a long while that I’ve suffered (touch wood) and trying to recall how I felt and what was important to me then (rather than retrospectively). Also I think my situation is very mild compared to others.

I shall hit send now. I don’t know who this helps or how. All my thinking and writing my draft has helped me stop and consider how/where I am. “Courage” and Lorna’s post are thought-provoking, important pieces and I hope these will help people consider their views to work, stress, wellbeing, people outside of work … Thank you

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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
  • 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 :)

fine

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 anonymous, others will be accredited – 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.

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I’m fine!

I really am. I have a family, a house, a car, clothes to wear, food to eat, warmth and a good job. I really have nothing to complain about. Not when there are so many not as lucky as me, surviving on a dollar a day or less or living rough on the streets. I have reasonably good health, unlike many without access to decent healthcare systems. I am, in short, lucky.

Sure my wife carries in her head a brain tumour which, should it grow, will at least disable her and most likely kill her. Yes, she takes painkillers which flatten her mood and scare her. And maybe she suffers a little with depression as a result of this, manifesting itself in things like an eating disorder or destructive friendships. But she is a good mother and she loves me. I am lucky and we are fine!

And yes, one of our children has Asperger’s syndrome making everything from food to sleeping a big deal, but we limit our holidays to the UK (no funny foods) and we try to holiday with friends or family to share the burden when she has a meltdown about something new or strange or loud or scary or that involves making a choice. I’m trying to understand and be a better, more patient father… and to ensure I don’t neglect our younger child either. It’s fine, really it is.

My job as HR Manager has changed greatly in the past year, I’ve been involved in restructures, redundancies, disciplinaries, a change of CEO and a lot of things I’ve never had to deal with before, but that’s great. I love it. Career development and all that. Sure there have been worries. And I’ve coped with it just fine.

And this year we’ve lost my grandfather and my parents and their siblings have been learning to cope with advancing age, some serious conditions and the fact that their son and grandchildren hardly ever visit because they’re at the other end of the country and have so very little time to visit and dealing with the Asperger’s syndrome means journeys are hell and sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings will mean they only get 3 hours sleep each night they stay. But we do what we can when we can and really, it’s fine.

But just recently I’ve had the odd problem sleeping. And maybe I could control my temper better and be less uptight with the kids – I do find myself shouting a bit. It would be nice to be able to share my worries and concerns with my wife but she doesn’t need that – she has her own things to handle. Maybe friends could help – but then home life has meant time with friends has been little and many friendships have withered. But that’s ok. I can manage. Driving the car into that tree really is a silly option. Get over it! You’re fine!

At least at work I can make a difference. There is something reassuring about that point in my journey when I stop thinking about home and start thinking about work. I put on that mask and I’m good at acting. I’m fine. Really I am.

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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
  • 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 :)

dawn

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 written by my brother, Dave Moss.

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Depression. One word, yet a decade of trouble for me. Touch wood, I have been free from Churchill’s black dog for the last two years. Long may it continue, because it roams the streets of your minds and never truly goes away. While I am relatively free from it, I thought I would share my experiences to help others who suffer from this debilitating illness.

Mental health still carries an almighty stigma. 1 in 4 officially will suffer from it during their lifetime. I think the true figure is much higher. In my secret facebook group ‘thoughts for the day’ I took a risk and posted that I had suffered from it, and statistically ten of the group should as well. Twenty admitted officially that they did, 50% of my group! Now I do not deliberately seek out depressed folks, thinking of myself as a glass half full person, what is the link?!

Life is a marathon not a sprint. You genuinely have a fuse in your brain, which blows when you have done too much. Breakdown time and hello my black dog again…listening to the radio the other day, Jeremy Vine had a segment about depression, something you can’t face talking about when you are in the eye of the storm. The doctor explained that there were two simple messages you should give your children, “I’m OK” and “the world’s OK”

“I’m OK”- there will always be clevererer, more handsome, wittier people than you. There will also be less intelligent, uglier and dull people than you. Be kind to yourself and be comfortable in your own skin.

“The world’s ok” – at the moment as I write, we are still in a recession. There is on the face of it much to be depressed by. But the world will sort itself out. It always does, these things are very cyclical. Trouble in the 70s, boom in the 80s, 90s then wobble in the 00s and 10s. Salvation due in 2020! 

 But eight years is a long old time I hear you say. How to cope before then?! The key thing is SLEEP!!! Ironically I write this at 0600, but sometimes this is my most creative time. Without sleep, deliberate or otherwise, you are unable to effectively analyse your issues. To try to get a healthy sleep pattern, try to minimise alcohol, fizz and caffeine. I know, not the most fun in the world but I never said it was going to be easy!! Exercise produces endorphins, positive energy that keeps blood flowing and yr brain fresh. The worst thing you can do if you are depressed is do nothing. Keep busy!!

Life is like a three-legged stool, my Mum says. Your life broadly can be compartmentalised into 3 main areas (legs); work, family and friends. I have added a fourth leg – money. If you have problems in one area, you are more reliant on the others to support you. If two areas are affected that is a big strain on the other two. And so on. 

The darkest moment is just before the dawn. It can’t get any worse!! Absolutely, when it is pitch black guess what? The sun rises. Tough it out. Positive thinking. Things WILL get better.

If you are still reading now, well done!! Depressed people classically have short attention spans. Hopefully I will never have to reread my own advice. But the black dog never truly gets lost, it may only be a couple of streets away.

Depression is also the curse of the strong. I never considered myself a perfectionist until my GP’s counsellor mentioned it. He also talked about disastorisation of events, i.e. thinking, overanalysing future events and assuming the worst will happen. Frequently it won’t. I differentiate between constructive and destructive worrying.

Worry about things you can do something about. You can’t change the past, only the present and future. The road to great victories are achieved by a series of small steps.

I wish you all the luck in the world. It isn’t easy and I’m sorry if my advice comes in a rather unstructured way. But it comes from the heart. If just one person reading this is helped, I have made a difference. 

Remember, sort out your sleep pattern. Identify what triggers your black dog. Minimise booze, fizz and caffeine. Be kind to yourself. You are OK. The world will sort itself out. 

Symbolically, I started writing this when it was pitch black. It is now getting light! I hope light is just about to dawn on you and your world 🙂

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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
  • 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 :)

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 🙂

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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