I've been thinking a lot about Mental Health recently, for a number of reasons.
For me, as it's World Mental Health Day 2019, it feels a good time to share them:
- My gran would have been 94 a couple of weeks ago. She died a few years ago now but still remains one of the most inspirational, funniest, most loving people I’ve ever met. My gran had chronic auditory and visual hallucinosis (which is very similar to schizophrenia) and my mum cared for her every day. Growing up with an awareness of severe and enduring mental health illness has most definitely shaped who I am as a person. I understand the stigma, the distress, the challenges but also see the real joy and beauty in the person behind the diagnosis.
- I attended a memorial event a couple of weeks ago for the 2 sons of Helen McHale, Chief Executive of Stockport Homes. At the event we heard the personal stories of Helen’s 2 boys and heard from the national research mental health charity MQ. Their vision is to create a world where mental illness is understood, effectively treated, and ultimately prevented.
They shared shocking statistics into the lack of investment into mental health research and spoke with passion about the work they are doing to change that. We also heard from the Stockport Mental Health Carers Group who shared stories of what it is like to care for a loved one living with a serious mental health condition.
- I found out a week ago that I’ve got a place on the ACEVO / Mental Health First Aid England working group on workforce mental health and wellbeing. This will be chaired by Jules Hillier, Chief Executive of Pause. The mental health of our workforce is an issue of growing concern for social sector Chief Executives. But while many Chief Executives feel able to address the basics of working with their teams to support mental and physical wellness at work, many Chief Executives feel they need support to go beyond that.
They want to ensure they are doing everything they can to promote mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and support all of their people, some of whom will of course experience mental ill health. The working group will be a space for Chief Executives to share and learn from each other, to scope the issues they experience, and to identify key challenges and strategies for success. The group’s meetings will contribute to a briefing for Chief Executives and senior leaders to help them support their workforce.
"Getting the balance right between all the aspects of my life feels like a constant juggling act"
This all got me thinking about my mental health and that of those I work with, which fits nicely with the theme of the 2019 World Mental Health Day, which is Mental Health in the Workplace.
Awareness of the scale and impact of poor mental health at work is increasing. In 2018, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that poor mental health was the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in UK workplaces and that stress-related absence had increased in nearly two-fifths of organisations. A Mind survey found that one in ten employees rated their current mental health as poor or very poor.
I don’t yet feel confident to share what more we could be doing as social sector leaders to support our staff and volunteers (and am hoping that will come after my time on the working group) but for now, I’ve had a go at identifying the top 5 things I do to manage my own mental health and wellbeing at work. I’ve listed them below in case they are helpful for you to consider...
1. Being honest about when I am struggling
Either at work, or when situations at home are impacting on me in work. The key for me has been to develop open, honest and professional relationships with my team and my Board so that when I have needed to share, that trust has been the cornerstone of the conversation.
2. Maintaining a work / home balance that has worked for me
As well as my day job as Chief Executive of TLC: Talk, Listen, Change, I am also a woman of faith, mum to 2 young girls, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and Treasurer of the church I attend. Getting the balance right between all the aspects of my life feels like a constant juggling act. But the times when I get it right(ish) are when my levels of stress reduce and my wellbeing improves. I don’t have the perfect recipe for how to do this but I spend time trying to curate the right balance for me
3. Looking after myself physically
The link between physical and mental health for me is tangible. I feel better if I get out in the fresh air (gardening, camping, playing with my children). I feel better if I eat lunch at the right time, with food I enjoy and that is healthy. I feel better if I get enough sleep at night
4. Spending time with those I love
My relationships are key to my mental health – the ones I have with my family, my friends and my colleagues. Friday night is family night in our house and the nights we don’t have them (because of work commitments, social commitments or just diaries not matching), I know I will feel the impact on my emotional wellbeing in the following week
5. Being busy
I am someone who likes being busy, who enjoys having a full diary and multiple tasks on the go. But I am also someone who panics if I am too busy, on the days when there are just not enough hours in the day. Finding the right balance of busyness for me is key to being emotionally well.
These are just a flavour of the things that work for me and give you a small insight into the thinking and preparation I am doing before the first ACEVO / Mental Health First Aid Working Group in December. My next piece of work is to start to think through and map how my organisation supports the mental wellbeing of our workforce on both a collective and individual basis.
I can’t wait to get started on the working group and promise to share my learning as I go through the experience. I am sure there is so much more we can and should be doing and I am looking forward to both the learning and implementation stages.
At our charity, we work with employer's to support their employee's mental health. If you were interested in working with us, or even having a quick chat to find out more, take a look at our Employee Counselling page here.